Pixel Scroll 7/27/21 Now The Years Are Scrolling By Me, They Are Rocking Pixelly

(1) 328305 JACKMCDEVITT. SF writer Jack McDevitt has been honored with an asteroid. Here’s the chart –

(2) HUMAN COST IGNORED. Will Slocombe protests that “Militaries Plunder Science Fiction for Technology Ideas, But Turn a Blind Eye to the Genre’s Social Commentary” at Activist Post.

One of the most interesting tools for thinking about future defence technology isn’t big data forecasting and the use of synthetic training environments, but narrative and imagination. And we get this from science fiction.

That might sound fanciful, but many militaries are already engaging with the genre. The US military and the French army use science fiction writers to generate future threat scenarios. The Australian Defence College advocates for the reading of science fiction and, in Germany, Project Cassandra uses novels to predict the world’s next conflict. The Sigma Forum, a science fiction think tank, has been offering forecasting services to US officials for years.

But while science fiction provides military planners with a tantalising glimpse of future weaponry, from exoskeletons to mind-machine interfaces, the genre is always about more than flashy new gadgets. It’s about anticipating the unforeseen ways in which these technologies could affect humans and society – and this extra context is often overlooked by the officials deciding which technologies to invest in for future conflicts….

(3) GET READY FOR BLUECON. [Item by Florrie Frederiksen.]  BlueCon, the 48th French national science-fiction convention, takes place August 19-22. The in-person event will be held on the international campus of the Valbonne University near Nice and the French Riviera. Ugo Bellagamba, president of this project, waxed poetical in his introduction: “Blue is the primary color of imagination, which may be painted in shades of azure, deep blue, or the morning blue which lightens and opens, the color of the skies, of the sea, which both invite to explore the realms beyond the horizon… ”

It is still possible to join the 105 attendees already committed to make this convention a success; panels and meetings and many tables are already being readied. Although the rooms in the center are already filled, the website lists other possibilities for accommodation nearby. Nice is easily reached by train and there is a good sized airport not far away.

(Warnings: this convention does not plan to have virtual elements. All attendees must make sure to have the compulsory valid “passe sanitaire” i.e. QR code proof of full vaccination or at least a negative PCR test dated after August 17. Even then, both vaccinated or non vaccinated people should be wearing masks and some measures of distance and hygiene will be necessary).

The program of the convention has been posted here.

(4) GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE TRAILER. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is coming to theaters in November.

In Ghostbusters: Afterlife, when a single mom and her two kids arrive in a small town, they begin to discover their connection to the original ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind.

(5) TERRIFICON LINEUP. Joe Stuber interviews David Gerrold for his Comic Book Central podcast: “David Gerrold on Star Trek & Land of the Lost!” Gerrold is on his way to be a guest at Terrificon.

TerrifiCon Week continues with legendary Star Trek writer and creator of Land of the Lost, David Gerrold! David drops by to talk about the origin of his fascination with sci-fi, crafting the most memorable episode of Trek, tackling tales of Tarzan and Superboy, and developing the complex mythology for the 70s Saturday morning sensation, Land of the Lost!

(6) DOOMSDAY BOOKS. James Davis Nicoll homes in on the trouble of that green and ancient land at Tor.com: “Five Speculative Visions of Britain in Chaos”.

The Star Fraction by Ken MacLeod (1995)

Rescued by US/UN intervention from the perils of the United Republic’s radical democracy, Britain is home to a patchwork of micro-states under the umbrella of the restored Hanoverian monarchy. Within sensible limits, each micro-state is free to govern itself as it sees fit, with heavily armed, remotely piloted war robots providing gentle rebukes should anyone overstep the US/UN guidelines.

Although the peace process can be trying from the perspective of the common person in the street, the system provides something the US/UN treasures: stability. However, stability is a chimera. An unseen enemy has been waiting patiently to bring the US/UN regime down. Now, thanks to a mercenary, a fundamentalist teen, and a scientist, the revolution has come.

(7) HAMIT MEDICAL UPDATE. Longtime File 770 contributor Francis Hamit has had two surgeries this week to deal with spinal stenosis. His partner Leigh Strother-Vien reports:

Francis had his first surgery on Friday, the 23rd, and his second yesterday, the 26th. Everything went well; in fact, they decided Friday’s went so well that they combined the second and the planned third surgeries together yesterday, fixing his spine down to the T2. He is in the ICU for at least one more day just to be extra careful, and he’s getting plenty of pain management. He said to let you know that it’s ok to put something in File 770 if you wish.

Before the surgeries Hamit sent me a note which ended:

…So I am going to be out of action and Leigh will be taking care of me.  … I will be “just the writer” for  some time to come.  Fortunately that’s part of my therapy.  So I’m not going anywhere.  Just completed that long novel and my memoir and have other work in progress. (Also need a literary agent). 

…Thoughts, prayers, good wishes etc are welcome of course.  Buying, reading and reviewing my books and stories, (Amazon.com) or dramatic work (Stageplays.com) is also very helpful since it helps out with expenses.  No time left for a fundraiser and too much else to do….

(8) A TRIBUTE TO ANDERSSON. The death of horror writer C. Dean Andersson a.k.a. Asa Drake was reported here the other day. Here is a tribute by his friend Christopher Fulbright: “Rest in Peace Dean Andersson”.

… Looking through old pictures is a little bittersweet. We had such great times together, but you never think about having to say goodbye for the last time. You seldom know what conversation will be your last. If I had to pick a last conversation, the one we had was as close to perfect as one might get—we talked about everything from the meaning of life to God himself. We talked a lot about God. I brought him a book of Robert E. Howard’s Kull stories and a Bible, which I promised had heroes and heroines, swords and sorceresses, dragons, pagan gods, epic battles, and the living dead. He was so grateful, and it was such a good talk. I left Dean’s hospital room a week and a half ago with a promise that I would bring lunch by his house and hang out in a couple of weeks, after he’d had a chance to get settled in again at home. Well … I know I’ll see him again someday, it’s just going to be a longer wait. In the meantime, the world is a bit poorer without him. He would no doubt have some subtle quip to make at that, but I insist it’s true….

(9) LESNIAK OBIT. Jim Lesniak of Voodoo Comics died over the weekend while manning his dealers table at the Gem City Comic Con in Dayton, OH according to numerous reports. No more details are known at this writing.

(10) HENRI VERNES (1918-2021). [Item by Florrie Frederiksen:] Henri Vernes (pen-name of Belgian author Charles-Henri-Jean Dewisme, born in 1918) passed away on July 25 at the age of 102.

He is best remembered for the over 200 French language novels of action, fantasy and science-fiction revolving around the BOB MORANE character, that he published continuously since 1953. Bob Morane also appeared in a 1965 television series, a 1996 animated movie, and a number of comics albums with art by well-known French artists.

The character has been made famous by a line in the 1982 song L’Aventurier by French rock group Indochine (“Et soudain surgit face au vent le vrai héros de tous les temps, Bob Morane contre tout chacal, l’aventurier contre tout guerrier.” Tranlsation: “And suddenly, against the wind appeared the real all time hero: Bob Morane fighting any jackal, the adventurer fighting all warriors…”)

A French science-fiction award has been named for Bob Morane (see here).

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 27, 2001 – Twenty years ago, the Planet of the Apes reboot premiered. Directed by Tim Burton and produced by Richard D. Zanuck, it was the sixth film in the Planet of the Apes franchise, very loosely adapted from Pierre Boulle’s novel and the 1968 film version. The screenplay was by William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal. The primary cast was Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kris Kristofferson, Estella Warren and Paul Giamatti. The critics mostly liked it though Ebert noted the original was much better, and it did very well at the box office ranking among the top ten films of the year. Currently at Rotten Tomatoes, audience reviewers really don’t like it and give it a twenty-seven percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 27, 1874 Frank Shannon. He’s best remembered now as the scientist Dr. Alexis Zarkov in the three Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe between 1936 and 1940.  The serials themselves were Flash GordonFlash Gordon’s Trip to Mars and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. He does show in the Forties Batman serial as Dr. Hayden and The Phantom serial of the era as Professor Davidson. (Died 1959.)
  • Born July 27, 1938 Pierre Christin, 83. French comics creator and writer. In the mid Sixties, collaborated with Jean-Claude Mézières to create the science-fiction series Valérian and Laureline for PiloteTime Jam: Valerian & Laureline, a French animated series was released, and a feature film directed by Luc Besson, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, was released as well. A compilation of the Valerian & Laureline series is on YouTube here.
  • Born July 27, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels, none of which is currently in print. I’ll admit that I’ve not read any of the many novels listed at ISFDB, so I’ve no idea how he is as a genre writer.(Died 2008.)
  • Born July 27, 1939 Sydney J. van Scyoc, 82. Her first published story was “Shatter the Wall” in Galaxy in 1962. She continued to write short stories throughout the Sixties and Seventies, and published Saltflower, her first novel in the early Seventies. Assignment Nor’Dyren is one of her better novels. Over the next twenty years, she published a dozen novels and likewise number of short stories. 
  • Born July 27, 1940 Gary Kurtz. Producer whose genre credits include Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Crystal and Return to Oz. He did a late Eighties SF film Slipstream, which reunited him with Mark Hamill. He was the original producer on The Spirit. He was executive producer on Chandler, a PI film which isn’t genre adjacent but worth noting here. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 27, 1949 Robert Rankin, 72. Writer of what I’d call serious comic genre fiction. Best book by him? I’d single out The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse as the best work he ever did bar none. Hell, even the name is absolutely frelling great. 
  • Born July 27, 1968 Farah Mendlesohn, 53. She’s an historian and prolific writer on genre literature, and an active fan. Best works by her? I really like her newest work on Heinlein, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, whichwon a BSFAHer Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition is also a fascinating read. And I highly recommend her Rhetorics of Fantasy as we don’t get many good theoretical looks at fantasy. Her only Hugo to date was at Interaction for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. She’s also garnered a BFA for Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction (shared with co-writer Michael Levy) which also got a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Myth and Fantasy, and she a Karl Edward Wagner Award winner as well. 
  • Born July 27, 1973 Cassandra Clare, 48. I read at least the first three or four volumes of her Mortal Instruments series which I see means I’ve almost completed it. Damn good series. Anyone read her Magnus Bane series? Interestingly she’s been nominated for myriad Goodreads Choice Awards and won two for City of Fallen Angels and City of Heavenly Fire.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) 30 YEARS IN THE MAKING. Here’s a teaser trailer for Mad God, a feature film directed by Phil Tippett, the world’s pre-eminent stop motion animator. Content Warning: Graphic body horror. Tippett’s career credits include Star Wars, RoboCop, and Jurassic Park.

(15) IT’S FROM AN OLD FAMILIAR SCORE. Vintage News shares some “Twisty Turny Facts About The Classic TV Series ‘The Twilight Zone’”.

Check out some mind-boggling behind-the-scenes facts, as we take you on a trip into Serling’s singularly strange universe…

It has a connection to Marty McFly

Does this building look familiar? As Screen Rant points out, the setting was part of The Twilight Zone’s first ever episode: “Where Is Everybody?”

The story concerns a man who appears to be alone in the world. Yet Courthouse Square, part of Universal Studios, has been anything but deserted over the years.

Lightning bolts and streaks of fire turned the area into an exit route for time travelers Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) in Back To The Future (1985)….

(16) FIELDS OF DREAMS. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Since we just discussed Lord Dunsany, the fantasy author, here is a profile of his descendant Randal Plunkett, the current Lord Dunsany, who is an eco hippy organic farmer and film maker. His first movie The Green Sea even appears to be genre: “’There have been many death threats, but I’ll never stop’ – Randal Plunkett, Baron of Dunsany, on rewilding his family estate” in The Independent.

…  “After attempting a normal agricultural approach, I stepped back and saw a landscape bleak and exhausted from overgrazing and over-farming,” he explains. “Chemicals injected into the soil and no pause for regeneration or recovery. How does land remain healthy when the cycle of life is ignored?”

The 21st Baron of Dunsany made a radical decision. He removed all grazing animals from the property, gearing towards an overall holistic focus on crops. Pesticides were banned, fertilisers were abandoned and invasive weeds like ragwort and thistle were tackled by hand. “My mum looked at me as if I’d joined a cult.”

Steered by a passionate new advocacy for veganism, Randal — who tradition dictates should be addressed as Lord Dunsany — came upon the concept of ‘rewilding’ seven years ago, a progressive approach to conservation allowing the environment to take care of itself and return to a native natural state. Rather than an experimental litmus test in a quiet corner of the property, he sacrificed 750 acres of a highly profitable 1,700-acre pasture in an unorthodox gamble.

“I wanted to return the land to the wild, not just preserve what little natural habitat remained. So we locked up a huge part of the estate and it was militant. No footfall most of the year, no paths or interference. That’s not to say we abandoned the land, we’re guardians keeping a distant, watchful eye. And the results speak for themselves.”…

(17) FLORIDA MAN. “Florida man washes ashore after trying to ‘walk’ to New York in bubble device” reports The Guardian.

Florida man startled beachgoers when he washed ashore inside a hybrid bubble-running wheel device.

The man, identified by a local news channel as Reza Baluchi, washed ashore in Flagler county on the east coast of Florida on Saturday.

He was inside a large barrel-type device which appeared to have flotation buoys attached to each end. The Flagler county sheriff’s office posted photos of the strange vessel on Facebook.

“The occupant advised he left the St Augustine area yesterday to head to New York,” the sheriff’s office said, “but came across some complications that brought him back to shore”.

…The Sun-Sentinel reported that Baluchi was forced to turn back after he discovered that some of his safety and navigation equipment had been stolen. The equipment has been recovered, and Baluchi plans to resume his journey once the weather improves, the newspaper said.

(18) THE LATEST MEMES OF 2003. In Honest Trailers:  Space Jam:  A New Legacy, on YouTube, teh Screen Junkies say this movie turns LeBron James into “a joyless grunt who plays boring basketball” and Bugs Bunny into “off-brand Bugs Bunny.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, N., Steve H Silver, Cora Buhlert, Florrie Frederiksen, David K.M. Klaus, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 4/7/21 Pixels Who Need Pixels Are The Luckiest Pixels In The Scroll

(1) AN APPEAL. [Item by rcade.] In a series of tweets Tuesday, Astounding Award winner Jeannette Ng asks for more nuanced takes on problematic elements of literary works and less pat conclusions about what they reveal about the author. Thread starts here.

One of the commenters references the literary critic F. R. Leavis.

Leavis was an influential British critic who took the position that a great work must be a demonstration of the author’s intense moral seriousness and that by reading it “the reader would acquire moral sensibility — a sense of what was true and good — which transcended social differences,” according to the Cambridge History of Literary Criticism.

(2) HE HAS THE ANSWER – DO THEY HAVE THE RIGHT QUESTION? “Fans campaign for LeVar Burton to host ‘Jeopardy!’” reports the New York Post.

… “Leaving this here in the event that the powers that be are listening,” Burton, 64, tweeted Monday alongside a petition started by a fan of the beloved “Star Trek” actor. The document boasted over 130,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning.

The petition comes amid a feverish push on Twitter for the wholesome television icon to host the gameshow.

(3) NEXT ON NETFLIX. Yahoo! assures fans Jupiter’s Legacy Trailer Packs Superpowered Family Drama”.

…We also get brief snippets about the origin of Sheldon (a.k.a. The Utopian) and his cohort’s powers; the trailer ominously teases the long-ago events “on the island” that turned a group of mere mortals into superhuman beings. (This group would then bear the name The Union). More will reveal as the series approaches, and we’re looking forward to unwrapping some of these mysteries once it hits Netflix on May 7.

(4) BUSTED. In “Cracking the Case of London’s Elusive, Acrobatic Rare-Book Thieves”, Marc Wortman tells Vanity Fair readers

Impossible,” said David Ward. The London Metropolitan Police constable looked up. Some 50 feet above him, he saw that someone had carved a gaping hole through a skylight. Standing in the Frontier Forwarding warehouse in Feltham, West London, he could hear the howl of jets from neighboring Heathrow Airport as they roared overhead.

At Ward’s feet lay three open trunks, heavy-duty steel cases. They were empty. A few books lay strewn about. Those trunks had previously been full of books. Not just any books. The missing ones, 240 in all, included early versions of some of the most significant printed works of European history.

Gone was Albert Einstein’s own 1621 copy of astronomer Johannes Kepler’s The Cosmic Mystery, in which he lays out his theory of planetary motion. Also missing was an important 1777 edition of Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, his book describing gravity and the laws of physics. Among other rarities stolen: a 1497 update of the first book written about women, Concerning Famous Women; a 1569 version of Dante’s Divine Comedy; and a sheath with 80 celebrated prints by Goya. The most valuable book in the haul was a 1566 Latin edition of On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, by Copernicus, in which he posits his world-changing theory that Earth and the other planets revolve around the sun. That copy alone had a price tag of $293,000. All together, the missing books—stolen on the night of January 29, 2017, into early the next day—were valued at more than $3.4 million. Given their unique historical significance and the fact that many contained handwritten notes by past owners, most were irreplaceable.

Scotland Yard’s Ward was stunned. He couldn’t recall a burglary like this anywhere. The thieves, as if undertaking a special-ops raid, had climbed up the sheer face of the building. From there, they scaled its pitched metal roof on a cold, wet night, cut open a fiberglass skylight, and descended inside—without tripping alarms or getting picked up by cameras.…

(5) BOOKS FOR PRISONERS ASKED. [Item by rcade.] The shelves of the Appalachian Prison Book Project are running low on science fiction and fantasy, the charity revealed recently in a tweet:

The project sends free books to people imprisoned in Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

They seek new and used paperbacks only and have more detailed donation guidelines on their website.

“We receive about 200 letters every week from people incarcerated in our region,” a project coordinator told File 770 in email. “It’s a wide range of requests. Generally, people choose a few genres they are interested in to ask about in their letter. We have sci-fi and fantasy as two separate categories on our genre list, and we don’t include subgenres, so people choose whatever genres they want to read.”

Asked if there are particular preferences within SFF, the coordinator replied, “We occasionally get requests for specific authors, but unless they have a specific title in mind, most people list themes and topics. For example, thay may want to read books about time travel or vampires or wizards or interstellar exploration. It’s our volunteers who search through our donated books to find the best fit for them.”

The charity’s Voices from the Inside page shares testimonials from grateful prisoners about the books they’ve received.

A prisoner in Whiteville, Tennessee, praised a 2002 vampire novel by Simon Clark: “Thank you so much for my copy of Vampyrrhic! I loved it! As I have said before not many people want to fool with us old convicts.”

Donations of books should fill no more than two medium-sized boxes and be sent using the U.S. Postal Service to this address:

Appalachian Prison Book Project
PO Box 601
Morgantown, WV 26507

(6) CALLING 1984. Not that 1984. I mean the year that gave us Ghostbusters and the line “I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us. Mr. Stay Puft!” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife unleashes a mini Stay Puft army in first clip”SYFY Wire sets the scene.

The iconic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is coming back in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, but he’s a lot smaller and more numerous than you remember. In the first official clip from director Jason Reitman’s long-delayed film, seismologist Mr. Grooberson (Ant-Man‘s Paul Rudd) comes across a army of mini Stay Puft men while shopping for ice cream.

They’re wreaking absolute havoc in the store, riding around on Roombas and roasting each other on BBQs (their chaotic antics bringing to mind Joe Dante’s Gremlins and composer Rob Simonsen subtly pays homage to Elmer Bernstein’s eerie score from 1984). Don’t be fooled by their cuteness, though — Grooberson attempts to poke one of the Stay Puft men in the stomach — à la the Pillsbury Doughboy — with painful results.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 7, 1933 — On this day in 1933, King Kong premiered. It was directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay was written by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose from an idea by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong. Critics mostly loved it, the box office was quite amazing and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an astonishing ninety eighty percent approval rating. It has been ranked by Rotten Tomatoes as the fourth greatest horror film of all time.  You can watch it here as it’s very much in the public domain. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 7, 1882 – Ogawa Mimei.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Called the founder of Japanese fairy tales.  The 2018 collection under that name has “The Mermaid and the Red Candles”, five more.  See another story here – I mean that, do see it.  (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born April 7, 1915 Stanley Adams. He’s best known for playing Cyrano Jones in “The Trouble with Tribbles” Trek episode. He reprised his role in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode “More Tribbles, More Troubles” and archival footage of him was later featured in the Deep Space Nine “Trials and Tribble-ations” episode. He also appeared in two episodes of the Batman series (“Catwoman Goes to College” and “Batman Displays his Knowledge”) as Captain Courageous. (Died 1977.) (CE)
  • Born April 7, 1915 Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories.  His own work was done in close collaboration with C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of what they would publish was under pseudonyms.  During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. He’s won two Retro Hugos, the first at Worldcon 76 for “The Twonky” short story, the second at Dublin 2019 for “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”. (Died 1958.) (CE) 
  • Born April 7, 1928 James White. Certainly the Sector General series which ran to twelve books and ran over thirty years of publication was his best known work. I’ve no idea how many I read but I’m certain that it was quite a few. I’m not sure what else by him I’ve read but I’m equally sure there was other novels down the years. It appears that only a handful of the novels are available from the usual suspects. (Died 1999.) (CE) 
  • Born April 7, 1930 – Ronald Mackelworth.  Five novels “usually involving complex but rarely jumbled plotting” (John Clute), a score of shorter stories.  Here is a Barbara Walton cover for Firemantle.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born April 7, 1935 – Marty Cantor, age 86.  Long-time fanziner; self-knowledge entitled his Hugo-finalist (as we must now say) fanzine Holier Than Thou; with another, No Award, I could tell him “You are worthy of No Award, and No Award is worthy of you.”  While he & Robbie Bourget were married they were elected DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegates together, publishing two reports, one each, bound head-to-tail like an Ace Double; they were Fan Guests of Honor at Alternacon.  MC later chaired Corflu 34 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable), published Phil Castora’s memoir Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?  Arrived among us in his forties, an exception to yet another theory.  Earned LASFS’ Evans-Freehafer Award Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.; service).  [JH]
  • Born April 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola, 82. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a red head into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of note include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled Rip Van Winkle, Twixt (a horror film that I’m betting almost no one has heard of), Captain EO which featured Michael JacksonMary Shelley’s FrankensteinJeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2. (CE)
  • Born April 7, 1945 – Susan Petrey.  Six novels, nine shorter stories.  Her vampires are non-supernatural.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Good writing and an early death prompted a Clarion scholarship in her name.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born April 7, 1946 Stan Winston. He’s best known for his work in Aliens, the Terminator franchise, the first three Jurassic Park films, the first two Predator films, Batman Returns and Iron Man. (He also did the Inspector Gadget film which I still haven’t seem.) He was unusual in having expertise in makeup, puppets and practical effects, and was just starting to get in digital effects as well upon the time of his passing. I think we sum up his talent by noting that he won an Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup for his work on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born April 7, 1951 Yvonne Gilbert, 70. Though best remembered for her controversial cover design of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 1983 single “Relax”, she did a number of great genre covers including Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea for Bantam in 1991 and Beagle’s A Dance for Emilia for Roc in 2000. (CE) 
  • Born April 7, 1981 – Lili Wilkinson, Ph.D., age 40. A novel and two shorter stories for us; many others (I’m not counting e.g. Joan of Arc).  Won a stopwatch in a Readathon.  Established Inky Awards at the Centre for Youth Literature, State Library of Victoria.  [JH]
  • Born April 7, 1982 – Zoë Marriott, age 39.  Nine novels.  Sasakawa Prize.  Two cats, one named Hero after the Shakespearian character (hurrah! she’s so cool! – JH), and the other Echo after the nymph in Greek myth.  Finishes a list of favorite songs with Spem in alium (hurrah! hurrah!).  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe’s answer to a science question might qualify as science fantasy.

(10) SO THE ONE THING CAPTAIN AMERICA AND VOX DAY HAVE IN COMMON IS THEY BOTH DISLIKE THIS GUY? The Captain America comic portrays Red Skull as suspiciously close to Jordan Peterson…and Peterson decided to lean into it. Which is kind of hilarious. “Captain America supervillain the Red Skull has been behaving a lot like Jordan Peterson lately, thanks to Ta-Nehisi Coates” at Slate.

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian professor of psychology who was embraced by right-wingers in 2016 after refusing to honor his students’ requests to use their preferred pronouns, then leveraged his YouTube channel and fear of political correctness to build a career as a self-help guru to the alt-right. He also appears to be the basis for the current incarnation of Marvel’s Nazi supervillain the Red Skull, who has returned to the comic book universe courtesy of Between the World and Me writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates is currently wrapping up a 2½-year run on Captain America, and in Captain America No. 28, which was released on March 31, the Red Skull has a YouTube channel that looked very familiar to Peterson, except for the red skull part…

If for some inexplicable reason you want a more serious look at the topic, there’s Camestros Felapton’s “A short Twitter diversion on Jordan Peterson” and The Mary Sue’s “Jordan Peterson Mad He Inspired Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Red Skull”.

(11) LATE NIGHT. In Stephen Colbert’s “Quarantinewhile…” segment a University of Illinois gymnast sticks his vault and then brandishes his COVID-19 vaccine certificate, immediately followed by a reference to our favorite AI researcher, Dr. Janelle Shane, who taught AI to generate pickup lines. (For the background, see Vice’s article “A Scientist Taught AI to Generate Pickup Lines. The Results are Chaotic”.

(12) CHINA’S ANSWER TO SPOT? [Item by Mike Kennedy.]  IFL Science introduces a “Video Showing ‘Robot Army’ Released By Chinese Robotics Company”. The story includes two tweets with embedded videos. The one with a large number of robot dogs where they just stand up then lay back down appears to me to be real. The other one, where they do tricks together, is pretty clearly CGI layered over the real world.

Unitree Robotics appears to be China’s answer to Boston Dynamics, designing and manufacturing mobile, autonomous four-legged robots that are able to handle obstacles and right themselves after a stumble.  

Their products are all variants of a similar dog-like design, including BenBen, Aliengo, Laikago, and A1….

(13) A TIDY PROFIT. AP’s story entitled “Man, a steal! Rare Superman comic sells for record $3.25 million” says that Comicconnect.com sold a copy of Action Comics #1 yesterday for $3.25 million, beating the old record of $3.2 million.

One of the few copies of the comic book that introduced Superman to the world has sold for a super-size, record-setting price.

The issue of Action Comics #1 went for $3.25 million in a private sale, ComicConnect.com, an online auction and consignment company, announced Tuesday.

It narrowly bested the previous record for the comic, set in the auction of another copy in 2014 for slightly over $3.2 million.

The comic, published in 1938, “really is the beginning of the superhero genre,” said ComicConnect.com COO Vincent Zurzolo, who brokered the sale.

It told readers about the origins of Superman, how he came to Earth from another planet and went by Clark Kent.

The seller of this particular issue bought the comic in 2018 for slightly more than $2 million.

(14) DISCOVERY’S NEW SEASON. “Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 Trailer Faces an Unknown Threat” promises Coming Soon.

Paramount+ has released the first trailer for the upcoming fourth season of Star Trek: Discovery, which is set to premiere later this year. The video features Sonequa Martin-Green’s Captain Burnham as she leads the crew against an unknown threat that could possibly destroy all of them without any warning.

(15) BURGER COSPLAY. [Item by Daniel Dern. Except for tasteless quote selected by OGH.] Given Kevin Smith’s sf activities, e.g., writing comics like the (wonderful) Green Arrow Quiver series (plot arc?), some involvement with the semi-recent WB “Crisis” episodes (or at least one of the aftershows) and other stuff i can’t remember – let’s mention “Kevin Smith talks fast food ahead of his Boston pop-up restaurant ribbon-cutting”. (I saw this info as an article in today’s Boston Globe, but I know the MSN link isn’t paywalled..)

Boston’s House of Blues will transform into a pop-up Mooby’s, the fictional burger chain that appears in various Kevin Smith movies, April 8-16.

Fans will remember the mascot, Mooby the golden calf, that enrages Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s characters in “Dogma.” Chris Rock’s character eats at a Mooby’s in the same film. Mooby’s also appears in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” and “Clerks II.”…

Q. So why Boston?

A. House of Blues reached out, and said: We’d do that. We never pressure anybody. We just wait for folks to reach out. The good thing about Mooby’s is it’s fake, so [no matter what building you dress up] people can’t say: ‘Well this don’t look like Mooby’s!’ Well what does? How many Mooby’s you been to exactly? Give us a day, and Derek will make it a Mooby’s.

Q. What’s your favorite menu item?

A. There’s a chicken sandwich in ‘Jay and Silent Bob Reboot’ called ‘Cock Smoker.’ We have that on our menu. It’s awesome to watch people try to order it in person. Generally everything is done on the reservation system in advance, but in LA, toward the end of the run, we opened it up [to walk-ins] and had four older ladies, each of giggling harder than the next when they ordered ‘Cock Smokers.’ I won’t get rich off restaurants, but that is wealth that you can’t measure.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Godzilla Vs. Kong” on Honest Trailers, the Screen Junkies say the film has such poor continuity with its two predecessors that it has “characters who forgot to mention they were related,” “characters they forgot to mention entirely” and a major plot point that didn’t appear in the two earlier films.  And watch out for Brian Tyree Henry as an annoying exposition-spouting podcaster! BEWARE SPOILERS.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Jennifer Hawthorne, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, John Hertz, Alan Baumler, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 1/23/21 I Will Scroll No Pixel Before Its Time

(1) LISTEN TO THE PICNIC. Podside Picnic is the place hosts Podside Pete, Karlo Rodriguez and Connor Southard engage with and discuss science fiction, fantasy and horror media. In addition to their Patreon subscriber content, they also feature interviews with SFF authors that are available to non-subscribers at Podside Picnic on Soundcloud – sample links below.

Podside Picnic is a show mostly about science fiction and fantasy, but more importantly, it’s about two guys exploring stories. Pete is a lifelong science fiction and fantasy fan with 40 years of ravenous reading under his belt. Connor is a writer and recovering literary snob on a mission to learn about science fiction, fantasy, and all the genres in between.

We like the phrase “literature of the fantastic” to encompass what most interests us, but our interests morph as we continue this journey and learn from each other and from our audience and guests. Much of our focus is on what’s long been called “genre fiction,” especially science fiction and fantasy, but curiosity is more important to us than marketing lingo. We believe the future of storytelling lies in crossing traditional boundaries. 

In which Pete and Connor are joined by a living legend of science fiction, Peter Watts. We discuss his contemporary classic novel Blindsight, but we also discuss love, legal misadventures, life itself… and sea cucumbers

Pete and Karlo are joined by author, Karen Osborne to discuss her novel “Architects of Memory” and how even in the far future, people will try their best and sometimes fail.

In which Pete and Connor are joined by writer Isaac Butler, who wrote this fascinating piece about unjustly forgotten fantasy and sci-fi writer John M. Ford: slate.com/culture/2019/11/john…n-fantasy-books.html

(2) GOTHAM BOOK PRIZE. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin is a nominee for the inaugural Gotham Book Prize.

As the city comes through COVID-19 and enters a challenging period ahead, recognizing what makes it special and unique is more important than ever. The Gotham Book Prize is awarded once a year to the best book (works of fiction and nonfiction are eligible) published that calendar year that either is about New York City or takes place in New York City. The winner will receive $50,000. Selections will be reviewed by an independent jury with the winner selected by the prize’s co-founders/ funders.

Jemisin’s book and Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind are the lone two works of genre interest among the 10 nominees.

(3) THE HELLUO YOU SAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Wikipedia word of the day [24 January GST]  is helluo librorum : (literary, archaic) An insatiable and obsessive bookworm (“avid book reader”). Here’s an example of the term used in a sentence:

[1720, [attributed to Jonathan Swift], The Right of Precedence between Phisicians and Civilians Enquir’d into, Dublin: […] [J. Gowan] for John Hyde […], and Robert Owen […], OCLC 1227582291page 16:

[A] Writers Stomach, Appetite, and Victuals, may be judg’d from his Method, Stile, and Subject, as certainly as if you were his Mess-fellow, and sat at Table with him. Hence we call a Subject dry, a Writer insipid, Notions crude, and indigested, a Pamphlet empty or hungry, a Stile jejune, and many such like Expressions, plainly alluding to the Diet of an Author, and I make no manner of doubt but Tully [i.e.Cicero] grounded that saying of Helluo Librorum upon the same Observation.]

(4) AMAZON ON THE COURTHOUSE STEPS. Classaction.org has another rundown on the lawsuit and a link to the complaint: “Amazon.com, ‘Big Five’ Publishers Conspired to Fix Prices for E-Books, Class Action Alleges”.

…Through its most favored nation clauses with the Big Five, Amazon has required, and the companies have agreed to grant, “prices, terms, and conditions equal to or better” than those offered to the defendant’s competitors. Moreover, Amazon mandates that it be notified about such terms, a requirement that serves to restrict discounts to consumers and stifle innovation in the trade e-book market, the suit claims.

“Once notified of the availability of its co-conspirators’ e-books at lower prices, Amazon typically ‘requested’ that they charge the same prices on Amazon. If publishers did not comply, Amazon retaliated or threatened to retaliate by disabling purchases for one or several of the publisher’s e-books on its platform, by excluding the publisher’s e-books from all promotional activity, by removing the pre-order buttons for the publisher’s e-books, or by prominently displaying banners for other publishers’ e-books.”

The contractual requirements laid out by Amazon prevent “actual and potential retail competitors from introducing alternative business models, offering promotional advantages, or offering customers lower prices on their own,” the complaint says, summarizing that the agency price model in which Amazon and the Big Five operate has contractually obligated the publishers to more or less do what Amazon says with regard to setting prices or offering discounts.

Further, whereas one would think readers would benefit from the cost reductions related to the low printing and distribution expenses of e-books when compared to printed texts, the high commissions and other costs Amazon charges to publishers all but wipe out those savings, the complaint summarizes:

“Amazon increases the cost of selling e-books by tying its distribution services (e.g., helping consumers find and purchase e-books on the Amazon platform, processing payments, delivering e-books) to its advertising services, which are designed to optimize the placement of advertisements to consumers on its online platform. Amazon further raises the Big Five’s selling costs by manipulating e-book ‘discovery tools to make a publisher’s books difficult to find without the purchase of advertising or refuses distribution unless the publisher also purchases advertising.’”

(5) RESISTANCE IN RUSSIA. In the Washington Post, Robyn Dixon interviews Dmitry Glukhovsky, author of “a cult dystopian sf trilogy” beginning with Metro 2033, who said he was opposed to the Kremlin’s efforts to murder dissident Alexei Navalny and to suppress all opposition to Putin. “Kremlin warns Russians against pro-Navalny protests, drawing pushback”.

The first novel in Glukhovsky’s dystopian science fiction trilogy, “Metro 2033,” set in the Moscow Metro in a post-apocalyptic world, tells a dark story of fascistic leaders who construct a big lie to fool people to keep them trapped underground after a nuclear holocaust. He said he was not a particular Navalny supporter but that it was impossible to ignore the authoritarian turn after what he called “a chain of murderous poisonings,” not only of Navalny but of other Kremlin critics.

(6) NEXT AT BAT. CNN is getting clicks with this headline — “The man third in the line of presidential succession has been in five ‘Batman’ movies”. He’s Sen. Patrick Leahy.

For as many foes as the superhero fends off, Batman has a formidable team of supporters starting with his sidekick Robin, Gotham City Commissioner James Gordon and his ever-loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth.

But one of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent supporters lies not in a comic book, but in the US Senate, and he’s known the Bat for more than 80 years.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont and the longest-serving member of the current Senate, is a Batman aficionado who’s turned his fandom into philanthropy. He’s even used the comics to forward his legislative agenda.

Now President pro tempore of the Senate, Leahy is third in the presidential line of succession. Though it’s unlikely he’ll ever have to serve as President, his high-profile position shines a brighter light on his colorful resume — which includes multiple appearances in the “Batman” films….

Leahy’s first foray into screen acting — something he does strictly when Batman is involved — came in 1995, when he appeared in the critically reviled “Batman Forever.” The same year, he voiced a character billed as “Territorial Governor” in “Batman: The Animated Series.”

Since then, Leahy has appeared in nearly as many “Batman” films as the Caped Crusader himself. He usually appears as a scowling politician (though in “Batman & Robin,” which his son Mark also had a cameo in, he was allowed to enjoy a raucous party). He even met an explosive end as the curiously named Senator Purrington in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

(7) SIERRA OBIT. Actor Gregory Sierra (1937-2021) died January 4. Best known for non-genre TV roles in Barney Miller and Sanford and Son, his genre credits included TV’s The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, Greatest American Hero, The X-Files, and the film Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and Honey I Blew Up The Kid. He also appeared in The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit scripted by Ray Bradbury.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 23, 1729 – Clara Reeve.  Reading Latin and Greek “at an age when few … of either sex can read their names” (W. Scott, Lives of the Eminent Novelists and Dramatists p. 545, 1870).  Two dozen books, including Plans of Education about women; The Progress of Romance a history of prose; The Old English Baron for us, an early Gothic novel influencing Mary Shelley.  Managed her own career rather than rely on male relations to do it for her.  (Died 1807) [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1923 Walter M. Miller Jr. He’s best remembered for A Canticle for Leibowitz, the only novel he published in his lifetime. Terry Bisson would finish off the completed draft that he left of Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, a sequel of sorts to the first novel. He did a fair amount of short fiction as well. He’s poorly represented both from the usual suspects and in the dead tree sense as well beyond A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born January 23, 1935 – Tom Reamy.  First-rate fanzines TrumpetNickelodeon.  MidAmericon Program Book (34th Worldcon).  Co-founded first SF club in Texas; with the Benfords, brought first SF con to Texas, Southwestercon VI.  One novel, a score of shorter stories; I have somewhere his collection San Diego Lightfoot Sue (title novelette won a Nebula), just thinking of which still gives me the chills.  Campbell Award (as it then was).  Reviews in Delap’s.  Interviewed by Pat Cadigan and Arnie Fenner in Shayol 1.  Novella sold to Last Dangerous Visions.  Here is his cover for Trumpet 1.  (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1939 – Greg & Tim Hildebrandt (Greg, age 82; Tim, died 2006).  Did much together, like this and this and this.  Here is their cover for City of a Thousand Suns.  Here is Greg’s Peter Pan.  Here is The Fantasy Art Techniques of TH.  One novel, five dozen covers, six dozen interiors together; forty covers, a hundred thirty interiors by Greg; ninety covers, two hundred sixty interiors by Tim.  Greg, Lifetime-Achievement Chesley; Tim, Best-Artist World Fantasy Award; both, Society of Illustrators’ Gold Medal.  [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1943 Gil Gerard, 78. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really a truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination regarding titles that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan-created Star Trek: New Voyages. (CE)
  • Born January 23, 1944 Rutger Hauer. Roy Batty In Blade Runner, of course, but did you know he was Lothos In Buffy the Vampire Slayer? That I’d forgotten. He’s also William Earle in Batman Begins, Count Dracula himself in Dracula III: Legacy, Captain Etienne Navarre in Ladyhawke, the very evil John Ryder in The Hitcher, Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3D, King Zakour in, and no I didn’t know they’d done this film, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power and finally let’s note his involvement in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as President of the World State Federation. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born January 23, 1964 Mariska Hargitay, 57. Did you know she’s the daughter of Jayne Mansfield? I certainly didn’t. Her first film appearance was as Donna in Ghoulies which is a seriously fun film. Later genre creds are limited but include playing Marsha Wildmon in the Freddy’s Nightmares – A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series. She also plays Myra Okubo in the Lake Placid film and voices Tenar in Tales from Earthsea. (CE) 
  • Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 71. Unless you count MacGyver as genre which I can say is open to debate, his main and rather enduring genre role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate Universe series. Well, Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred and seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend co-starring John de Lancie. Yeah I really liked it. And damn it should’ve caught on. (CE)
  • Born January 23, 1954 – Craig Miller, age 67.  Ray Bradbury suggested he join LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society).  Of course I put that first, what Website do you think this is?  CM soon earned the LASFS’ Evans-Freehafer Award (service).  Co-chaired Equicon ’74, Westercon 28, L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon; chaired Loscon 12.  Fan Guest of Honor, Westercon 41, Loscon 27 (with wife Genny Dazzo), Baycon 2006, Boskone 55.  With Marv Wolfman co-created and produced Pocket Dragon Adventures.  Memoir of work with Lucasfilms Star Wars Adventures.  Three hundred television writer and producer credits.  Writers Guild of America West’s Animation Writers Caucus Animation Writing Award.  [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1962 – Hilary Robinson, age 59.  A Manxman (the suffix -man is not masculine).  Sixty books; radio, television.  Gillard Gold Award for Religious Programming.  Half a dozen short stories for us.  Essays, letters, in Crystal ShipFocusMatrix.  Patron of the Children’s University.  Her story.  [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1979 – Marko Djurdjevic, age 42.  A Serb living in Germany.  Penciller and concept artist.  Here is The Marvel Art of MD.  Here is a sketch of Batman.  Here is a contribution to Mark Hay’s Poker-Themed Sketchbook.  Here is The Examination.  Here is Kang the Conqueror.  Blogspot.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Herman has the lowdown on those unexplained sightings.
  • Alley Oop has a joke about quantum theory?
  • The Argyle Sweater has one of the more bizarre Star Wars parenting jokes.

(10) HOW SUPER ARE THEY? The Late Late Show with James Corden challenges Watchmen star and One Night In Miami director Regina King to a game of Superhero or Super Zero, in which she meets a lineup of six potential superheroes. After learning each character’s origin story, Regina must decide which are indeed real.“Which of These Are Real Superheroes? w/ Regina King”.

(11) THE GHOST OF BREAKFAST FUTURE. Delish is haunted by the possibility that “A New ‘Ghostbusters’ Cereal Is Coming Soon”.

… The cereal, which is brought to you by General Mills, hasn’t gotten a secured release date yet, but it has popped up as a listed product on Walmart’s website. Quite similar to the original 1980’s Ghostbusters cereal box, this new rendition—which may not be the finalized version—displays the infamous Ghostbusters logo alongside a bowl of reddish-orange crunchy cereal pieces. And, just like the original version, it includes ghost and Silmer-shaped marshmallow pieces to add more sweet nostalgia to your morning.

(12) HUSH A BOOM. National Geographic is “Remembering the night two atomic bombs fell—on North Carolina”.

… What the voice in the chopper knew, but Reeves didn’t, was that besides the wreckage of the ill-fated B-52, somewhere out there in the winter darkness lay what the military referred to as “broken arrows”—the remains of two 3.8-megaton thermonuclear atomic bombs. Each contained more firepower than the combined destructive force of every explosion caused by humans from the beginning of time to the end of World War II….

(13) WORMHOLES. This 2019 Astronomy.com article ponders the question “If wormholes exist, could we really travel through them?”

…Wormholes, thus, are the perfect way to bypass Einstein’s speed limit, and get your heroes and villains to travel the galaxy in a reasonable time frame. Plus, they allow for the element of time travel to enter the story, all without breaking any laws of physics.

So, the real question is: Can actual people take advantage of wormholes too? The answer is… maybe?

Wither Wormholes?

The first problem for any explorer determined to survey a wormhole is simply finding one. While Einstein’s work says they can exist, we don’t currently know of any. They may actually be impossible after all, forbidden by some deeper physics that the universe obeys, but we haven’t discovered.

The second issue is that, despite years of research, scientists still aren’t really sure how wormholes would work. Can any technology ever create and manipulate them, or are they simply a part of the universe? Do they stay open forever, or are they only traversable for a limited time? And perhaps most significantly, are they stable enough to allow for human travel?

The answer to all of these: We just don’t know.

(14) WORMS WHO MAKE WORMHOLES. “Mysterious, 20-million-year-old tunnels in the ancient ocean floor came from 6-foot-long carnivorous worms, a study found”Yahoo! has the story.

Scientists in Taiwan noticed odd, L-shaped burrows in a set of rocks eight years ago. Since the rocks once sat on the Pacific Ocean floor, they thought the tunnels had been made by shrimp, or perhaps octopuses. But the shape and structure of the burrows didn’t match those made by such creatures, and the mystery lingered.

Now, it’s been solved: The architects behind the tunnels were 6-foot-long worms that lived about 20 million years ago, according to a study published this week. Fossil evidence helped the study authors figure out how these predators hunted and built their undersea lairs.

According to their research, the ancient marine worms would lay waiting under the sand for unsuspecting prey; then when fish passed by, the worms would lunge out of their burrows, snag the swimmers in their gaping maws, and drag the victims under the seafloor…. 

(15) HINDSIGHT HISTORY. Here’s a video curiosity – the cast of the 1945 Armed Forces short “Time To Kill” [YouTube] about the educational benefits offered by the Armed Forces Institute includes George Reeves, plus DeForest Kelley and Betty White making their film debuts.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “First Look:  Tom Holland as Peter Parker in Web Slingers” on YouTube is a preview of a new Spider-Man ride coming to Disney’s California Adventure whenever the park is allowed to reopen.

[Thanks to Jeff Smith, John King Tarpinian, Elspeth Kovar, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer, with an assist from Orson Welles.]

Pixel Scroll 11/7/20 My Favorite Lightyear

(1) NEWTON’S LAW LAB. From 2010, “William R. Newman on Why Did Isaac Newton Believe in Alchemy.”

Indiana University professor of History and Philosophy of Science, William R. Newman presents his lecture, entitled Why Did Isaac Newton Believe in Alchemy? Through historical documents and experiments that demonstrate alchemical processes, this lecture explains why one of the most insightful scientists in history was convinced that alchemical transformations were scientifically plausible.

(2) IT’S AROUND HERE SOMEWHERE. “Apocalypse Always: On Matthew Wolf-Meyer’s ‘Theory for the World to Come’” – a review by Sean Guynes at LA Review of Books.

Theory for the World to Come offers short, personal readings of a handful of familiar SF texts, including blockbuster films like RoboCop and novels by Octavia Butler, Orson Scott Card, Stephen Graham Jones, and Kurt Vonnegut. To these quintessentially SF texts he adds more loosely speculative ones, including funk music and Dougal Dixon’s speculative nonfiction book Man After Man. Wolf-Meyer identifies in each text an attempt to deal with a singular apocalypse and argues that in reading them collectively, in imagining their futurities together, we can better respond to the multiplicity inherent in all apocalypse. For Wolf-Meyer, apocalyptic imaginaries “produce models to think about society and how it might recover from devastating — if not ontology shattering — events.” Nothing new to scholars of SF, but Wolf-Meyer contends that these collective imaginings of devastating events offer a titular “theory for the world to come.” Indeed, in the time of ongoing apocalypse, we are already living in need of such theory and have only to produce it through engaging, praxis-oriented readings of speculative fiction.

(3) MULTI-STORY HOMES. Ray Bradbury and other writers are part of The Argonaut’s survey: “The Westside’s Hidden Literary History Is Written In Its Lost Architecture”.

…Bradbury would take advantage of the burgeoning bohemian atmosphere, living on Venice Boulevard — although moving a few blocks closer to the beach in 1947 — until the end of the decade. In 1950, the same year “The Martian Chronicles” was published, he left Venice.

The 670 property stayed in town a while longer, until it was demolished and replaced with a New York-style art gallery. The gallery opened in 2010, held a Bradbury-themed exhibit in 2012 and closed in 2013.

The Cheviot Hills property where Bradbury lived from the 1960s until his death in 2012 suffered a similar fate when it was torn down by the new owner, resulting in a public outcry.

Properties in Los Angeles can be designated Historic-Cultural Monuments, which gives them a protected status. Properties can be nominated for the designation by anyone, and they are often nominated by the owners themselves, Bernstein said. However, there are not as many Historic-Cultural Monuments on the Westside as there are in other parts of Los Angeles.

“Land values are so high and many might envision a land development in their future,” he said.

Of course, not every piece of Westside literary history has vanished. The house where Christopher Isherwood wrote his landmark novel “A Single Man” still privately observes the Santa Monica Canyon from its Ocean Avenue vantage point.

And sometimes, rather than vanish, literary history generates spontaneously. William Faulkner was rumored to have lived on an El Greco Street in Santa Monica — no such street seems to have existed in the city.

Another writer whose Westside presence was slightly overstated was Raymond Chandler. Loren Latker, operator of the Raymond Chandler fan website Shamus Town (www.shamustown.com), started investigating the crime writer’s many Los Angeles area homes and quickly noticed something amiss. Chandler lore had it that the writer lived at 723 Stewart St. in Santa Monica in the early 1920s when he was an executive at the Dabney Oil Syndicate.

“I went there looking around, and the addresses are wrong,” Latker said. “It’s not possible that he lived on Stewart in Santa Monica.”

Old maps of the area backed him up. Stewart did not cross Wilshire, where the 723 address would have been, Latker said. Chandler most likely lived on a Stewart Street in downtown Los Angeles, which was later renamed Witmer, he said. That would be near the Mayfair Hotel, an infamous Chandler haunt where the writer would check in, get drunk, call his office and threaten to kill himself….

(4) GOFUNDME. Steve Perrin has launched a GoFundMe to assist his wife Luise, a member of the SCA and LASFS: “Care for the Phoenix”

My wife Luise Perenne, known as Luise of the Phoenix  in the early days of the SCA, an artist in both dance and illustration, is going into hospice care after a very close call from a heart attack and pneumonia. She is extremely weak and at age 76 needs more help than I (at age 74) can provide. She starts hospice care at home on Monday. We need a caretaker to come in a couple of hours a day to help Luise, take care of her personal needs, and so forth. The usual charge is $25.00 an hour. Assuming 2 hours a day for a caretaker,  that’s $1500 a 30-day month, and I am  asking for more  to cover extra time or other emergencies.  After the 1st month we will have a better idea of what is needed and I will do another GFM. 

Offers to physically help from local friends are always appreciated.

(5) RING ME UP. Looper has made a directory: “Lord of the Rings: Every Ring-bearer in chronological order”. I knew who the first and last ones were – in between it gets busy!

It should come as no surprise that the first person to bear the One Ring is none other than the Dark Lord himself. After all, it’s Sauron who forges the overpowered loop of metal in the first place, right smack dab in the middle of the Second Age of Middle-earth history.

Of course, Sauron was around for a very long time before he made the One Ring. He started out as an angelic being that predated time itself. Eventually, the world was created, and he joined forces with the original Dark Lord, Morgoth. When Morgoth was defeated at the end of the First Age, Sauron stepped into his shoes and became the new Dark Lord.

(6) MALKIN GREY REMEMBERED. Now online, Pippin Macdonald’s tribute to her mother, Debra Doyle

…As a member of the SCA, she was known as Malkin Grey. She was chronicaler for the Barony of BhaKail, and later Tir-y-Don, and as such claimed she needed to be unbiased in any feuds that may crop up, so she could properly report on them. Really, it was her way of staying out of their drama. 

While in the SCA she wrote, with her best friend Peregrynne Windrider, “The Song of the Shield Wall.” Mom said it might have been the most wide reaching thing she ever wrote. Stanzas of it have ended up written on the walls of army outposts in Iraq. When my brother, Brendan, went to Pensic one year, when he told the bards his mom was Malkin Grey, it was as if he told them he was Mick Jagger’s kid. She earned numerous awards for her service to the SCA, including Mistress of the Pelican. …

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 7, 1997 — Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers premiered. It’s based loosely off Robert Heinlein’s Hugo Award winning novel of the same name.  It had a cast of Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards Jake Busey,  Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Muldoon and  Michael Ironside, and it received a mixed reception by critics ranging from utterly loathing it to really, really loving it and a generally negative one by most SF fans; it currently garners a seventy percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes among the quarter million audience reviewers who’ve given an opinion, and has long since earned back its modest budget. It would spawn a number of sequels, mostly bad, and one rather excellent animated series. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 7, 1910 Pearl Argyle. Catherine CabalI in the 1936 Things to Come as written by H.G. Wells based off his “The Shape of Things to Come” story. Being a dancer, she also appeared in 1926 in The Fairy Queen opera by Henry Purcell, with dances by Marie Rambert and Frederick Ashton. Her roles were Dance of the Followers of Night, an attendant on Summer, and Chaconne. (Died 1946.) (CE)
  • Born November 7, 1914 – R.A. Lafferty.  One of our most original and strange.  A score of novels, two hundred thirty shorter stories, three dozen poems.  Outside our field, see particularly The Fall of RomeOkla Hannali.  His name and Sir Arthur Clarke’s saying “One of the few writers who have made me laugh aloud” gave rise to LaffCons (here in 2019 even Darrell Schweitzer, 2nd from L, is almost at a loss); they and RAL’s East of Laughter gave rise to Feast of Laughter, 5 vols. so far; but while RAL is indeed comic, remember that the difference between comic significance and cosmic significance is a single sibilant.  One Hugo; Phoenix Award, World Fantasy Award, for life achievement.  Even the titles are strange (“Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne”, “Maybe Jones and the City”, “Or Little Ducks Each Day”).  Past Master may be the best start.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1917 – Mike Rosenblum.  Pioneer British fan.  Attended the 1937 Leeds convention.  Leading collector.  Doc Weir Award (for U.K. service).  Famous for Futurian War Digest; also in FAPAVector.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1923 – Blanche Howard.  One novel for us; five others of which one was co-authored and then adapted for stage, a dozen shorter stories, correspondence with co-author.  Last novel at 87.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1934 Wendy Williams. You know I’ll work a Doctor Who reference in and she was in a Fourth Doctor story, “The Ark in Space” as Vira. Other genre appearances include Danger ManJack the Ripper, Leap in the Dark and The Further Adventures of the Musketeers. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born November 7, 1947 – Margaret Ball, Ph.D., 73.  Three novels with Anne McCaffrey, two dozen more, a dozen shorter stories.  Fulbright scholar.  Univ. Cal. Los Angeles professor.  Now retired in favor of fabric arts, see here.  [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1950 Lindsay Duncan, 70. Adelaide Brooke in the Tenth Doctor‘s “The Waters of Mars” story and the recurring role of Lady Smallwood on Sherlock in  “His Last Vow”, “The Six Thatchers” and “The Lying Detective”. She’s also been in Black MirrorA Discovery of WitchesFrankensteinThe Storyteller: Greek MythsMission: 2110 and one of my favorite series, The New Avengers. (CE) 
  • Born November 7, 1954 Guy Gavriel Kay, 66. The story goes that when Christopher Tolkien needed an assistant to edit his father J. R. R. Tolkien’s unpublished work, he chose Kay who was being a student of philosophy at the University of Manitoba. And Kay moved to Oxford in 1974 to assist Tolkien in editing The Silmarillion. Cool, eh? The Finovar trilogy which I love is the retelling of the legends of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere which is why much of his fiction is considered historical fantasy. Tigana likewise which is wonderful somewhat resembles renaissance Italy. My favorite work by him is Ysabel which strangely enough is called am urban fantasy when it isn’t. It won a World Fantasy Award. Let’s not forget that he was the Toastmaster at ConFrancisco. (CE) 
  • Born November 7, 1960 Linda Nagata, 60. Her novella “Goddesses” was the first online publication to win the Nebula Award. She writes largely in the Nanopunk genre which is not be confused with the Biopunk genre. To date, she has three series out, to wit The Nanotech SuccessionStories of the Puzzle Lands (as Trey Shiels) and The Red. She has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel for The Bohr Maker which the first novel in The Nanotech Succession. Her 2013 story “Nahiku West” was runner-up for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and The Red: First Light was nominated for both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her site is here. (CE)
  • Born November 7, 1963 – Robh Ruppel, 57.   A score of covers, threescore interiors, trading cards, for us; here is Dragon 232here is Earth Hourhere is Passage to Dawn.  Among other things, here is his book Aspect Ratiohere is a review of his book Graphic L.A.  [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1974 Carl Steven. He appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock as a young Spock, thereby becoming the first actor other than Leonard Nimoy to play the role in a live action setting. Genre one-offs included Weird ScienceTeen Wolf and Superman.  He provided the voice of a young Fred Jones for four seasons worth of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo which can be construed as genre. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born November 7, 1982 – Zhang Yueran, 38.  Won Mengya magazine’s 2001 New Concept writing competition.  Her 2004 collection Ten Loves tr. Engl. 2013, see particularly “The Ghost of Sushui City” tr. Engl. as “A Sushui Ghost Story”.  Int’l Writing Program Fall Residency 2011, Univ. Iowa.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) FACETIME. “Star Wars: Why Tusken Raiders Wear Masks”. ScreenRant wants to explain, but heck, doesn’t everybody now?

…Star Wars: A New Hope also introduced the audience to some of the creatures and alien species that inhabit this vast universe, though many of them weren’t fully identified until many years later when George Lucas brought the prequel trilogy. Such is the case of the Tusken Raiders, who made their first appearance in A New Hope but weren’t identified as such until Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, where viewers spent a lot of time in Tatooine, following a young Anakin Skywalker. After that, Tusken Raiders were absent for the rest of the Star Wars saga, but they recently returned in Disney+’s The Mandalorian, which has brought back some questions about them, such as why they wear masks and why they never take them off.

(11) GET YOUR CANDLES READY. November 13 is the day — “‘Fantasia’ Turns 80: Why Its Technological Achievements Can’t Salvage Its Shortcomings” Or so says Christian Blauvelt.

…We’re not here to bury “Fantasia.” A lot of it is impressive, even absorbing: the “Toccata and Fugue” sequence that opens this unique anthology plays like an experimental film, and the “Rite of Spring” transplants Stravinsky’s inflammatory ballet to the beginning of life on Earth before delivering the best dinosaur epic pre-“Jurassic Park.” But “Fantasia” is also the ultimate example of “white elephant art” in film, to borrow critic Manny Farber’s label. This is a case of Walt Disney being so committed to making an “important” film, a “breakthrough” film — one he felt would make critics take animation that much more seriously — that he ends up with a work of just intermittent artistry.

(12) ALFRED BESTER’S MARINER SCRIPT. “Eight Months to Mars” on YouTube is a 1965 documentary, done for the U.S. Information Agency and narrated by John Fitch, about the Mariner IV mission to Mars.  It includes copies of covers from Amazing and Galaxy, an argument that the Martian atmosphere could be made of sugar, the first photos of craters on Mars, and a prediction that human spaceflight to Mars would begin in 1980.  The script for this documentary is by Alfred Bester.

(13) WHO YA GONNA CALL? AutoBlog promises “Lego’s 18.5-inch Ghostbusters Ecto-1 will make you feel like bustin'”.

…The set is comprised of a whopping 2,352 Lego pieces and when completed, will measure 18.5 inches long. It’s one of the more accurate Lego vehicles the company has created, and features a steering box connecting the steering wheel to the front wheels, hinged doors and an opening hood with replica V8 engine inside.

Like the movie car, it’s packed with ghost-fighting gadgetry….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Mokapzu Park on Vimeo, Art and Graft shows what a park would be like after all the plants and animals died and scientists have to create new animals from discarded plastic bottles.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Lis Riba, Will R., JJ, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/22/20 Yondo Lies The Pixel Of My Filer

(1) GET READY TO LAUNCH. At Nerd and Tie, “Interview: Eliana González Ugarte and Coral Alejandra Moore of Constelación Magazine” conducted by Andrea Johnson,

NOAF: I am so excited for Constelación Magazine! When and how, and why did you decide to make this magazine a reality?

Coral Alejandra Moore: The entire process of building Constelación from the idea to what you can see on the website and social media now was really organic. Eliana and I met at a virtual convention called Flights of Foundry in May of this year, and a few weeks later we met again at the Nebulas convention. We both happened to be a in a zoom room where John Picacio and Mary Robinette Kowal started talking about Spanish language speculative fiction because of Eliana’s experience with it, and that got the hamsters in my brain turning. A few emails, and Twitter DMs later, Eliana and I were already moving forward at warp speed, and we really haven’t stopped since then. Lots of people got quarantine puppies during the pandemic, but we got a quarantine magazine!

NOAF: What makes Constelación Magazine different from other speculative fiction magazines out there?

Eliana González Ugarte: We take stories in both English and Spanish! One of our goals is to publish more Latin American and Caribbean authors who may not be able to submit their stories directly in English, or they’d have to first pay someone to translate it for them in order to be able to submit. 

(2) NEXT REVELATION. Alastair Reynolds has delivered the latest book in the Revelation Space series. It will probably be called Inhibitor Phase: “I’ve delivered a book”.

… As may be apparent to those familiar with my work, the book takes place in the Revelation Space universe and is largely set in the years after ABSOLUTION GAP, my 2003 novel. 

It’s not intended as a sequel to that book, but merely another entry in the mosaic of books and stories which illuminate a larger future history. That said, it does have connective tissue with some of the other novels. although I’ve scrupled as carefully as I can to make the book function as a standalone title, a single book which tells a complete tale in its own right and can be read as “just” an isolated story.

.. What happens in the book? I’m not going to say – just yet. I can state that some of the influences that have fed into the book include a film by Ingmar Bergman, a song by Scott Walker (in fact more than one), and the closing track of a Muse album.

(3) HEINLEIN STANDING DOWN. “‘Starship Troopers’ is off the Marine commandant’s reading list, but ‘White Donkey’ by Terminal Lance is in”. Would you like to know more? Task & Purpose has the story.

The Marine Corps commandant’s reading list saw some big changes this week, with the sci-fi military classic Starship Troopers getting the boot as newer works of fiction like The White Donkey took a place on the shelf.

The change came on Tuesday when Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger released the new reading list, which includes 46 books across a range of topics and genres….

(4) AFTERLIFE POSTPONED. Yahoo! Life reports ”End of the world delays Ghostbusters: Afterlife to June 2021″.

Perhaps sensing that the minds of the moviegoing public—as much as concepts like “moviegoing” and “public” exist during the COVID-19 pandemic—were otherwise occupied with images far more horrifying than a giant SlorSony announced this afternoon that the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife has been pushed to June 11, 2021. For those keeping score at home, that’ll put the Jason Reitman-directed sequel into theaters 37 years after the original Ghostbusters, four months after its first revised release date, and approximately two-and-a-half years after self-proclaimed “first Ghostbusters fan” Reitman stuck his foot in his mouth upon announcing that his new addition to the comedy franchise was “for all the other fans.” But then again, what’s waiting 16 additional weeks in the midst of 40 years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, and all of the other stuff that Dan Aykroyd might attribute to the difficulties of getting a third film set in the continuity of the first two Ghostbusters movies in front of people?

(5) A FLASH FROM FIFTY-EIGHT. Fanac.org has added 17 photos from the late Karen Anderson’s collection (thanks to Astrid Bear) to the Solacon (1958 Worldcon) album. These include half a dozen photos from “Alice in Thrillingwonderland”  which was performed at the con.

In issue #795 of Karen’s fanzine Zed, you can read the script for the play starting on page 7. So now you can read the script, see the pix and imagine yourself there. There are also some wonderful masquerade photos and some individual photos as well. Thanks to Astrid for letting us put them up.

(6) SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL MAMMAL. “It’s a Wild City! Funny Wildlife PSAs Appear in NYC”Untapped New York knows where they came from.

… Hynes got his start writing for Untapped New York and turned his animal-focused column into Wild City, which was released earlier this year. It’s an illustrated exploration that highlights everything from the return of the humpback whale to the pizza rat…. 

The illustrator of the animals on the posters is Kath Nash, who also illustrated Wild City. Each of the PSAs have more highlights about each creature. The Mandarin Duck one says “Remember this little guy? Used to be around all the time! Loved to swim in Central Park and have his picture taken. But now he’s just gone! We will always love you, Gucci duck. Please come home soon! ENJOY YOUR LOCAL WILDLIFE TODAY!” One of the mastodon says, “NEW YORK GIANTS. Mastodons were the original New Yorkers. These big buddies lived all over the city back in the day. Just imagine this furry elephant roaming around Inwood or wherever. It’s wild.”…

(7) VINTAGE 98.6. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s a cold Halloween night. What better to curl up with than a warm bucket of blood? “Halloween Kills: Jamie Lee Curtis Jokes About All The Fake Blood Needed For The Sequel” at CinemaBlend.

[…L]egendary scream queen [Jamie Lee Curtis} recently joked about the massive amount of fake blood needed to make the project [Halloween Kills] into a reality.

Halloween Kills is in the can and was set to arrive in theaters this October, before being delayed a full year amid the pandemic. Jamie Lee Curtis is as disappointed as anyone else about this, although she recently posted an awesome video from the movie’s set. The Knives Out actress shared the story behind said clip, saying:

So the second movie that we shot takes place immediately where the first movie lets off, which is similar to what Hallowen II did. Halloween II picked up exactly after Halloween I. So I’ve been stabbed in the stomach by Michael. And the first sequence is us in the back of this truck which you see us climb into at the end of the movie. I posted on Instagram this video because you’re in the back of a truck, they’re trailing behind you. But I’m supposed to literally be bleeding out, I’m supposed to be hemorrhaging. So we had to freshen the sticky blood. And they have this big bucket, like a paint bucket. And by the end of it I was like ‘Give me my bucket. I want my bucket.’ Because it was warm, and it was super cold. David called it ‘the sauce.’ He said ‘Bring in more sauce.’

[…Y]ou can check out the video that Jamie Lee Curtis was referencing [at Instagram].

(8) MONTANARI OBIT. Gianni Montanari, writer, translator, curator of the Italian prozine Urania from 1985 to 1990, has died at the age of 71 reports Fumetto Logica. Francesco Spadaro called him, “A genius I’ve known for years through printed paper, then in person in an unexpected friendship like all the great gifts life gives you.”

Montanari was also creator of the Urania Prize.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1990 — Thirty years ago at ConFiction, Hyperion by Dan Simmons wins the Best Novel Hugo. Runner-ups were George Alec Effinger’s A Fire in the Sun, Orson Scott Card’s Prentice Alvin, Poul Anderson‘s The Boat of a Million Years and Sheri S. Tepper‘s Grass. It is the first book of his Hyperion Cantos and was followed by The Fall of Hyperion. It would also be nominated for the BSFA and Clark, and win the Locus Award for Best SF Award. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 22, 1882 – N.C. Wyeth.  One of America’s greatest illustrators; his masterpiece Treasure Island; over a hundred books.  For us e.g. Rip Van WinkleRobin Hood.  Outside our field e.g. Coca-Cola, Lucky Strike; Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner for Steinway & Sons; public and private buildings; patriotic images during both World Wars.  Besides illustration – “Painting and illustration cannot be mixed” – portraits, landscapes.  Here is a gallery.  (Died 1945) [JH]
  • Born October 22, 1927 – Lee Jacobs.  When he wrote “The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern American Filk Music”, filk was a typo.  But it acquired a life of its own.  Active in Washington, D.C, fandom; then Los Angeles.  Took part in FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n, our oldest apa), SAPS (Spectator Am. Pr. Society, our second-oldest), SFPA (Southern Fandom Pr. Alliance), The Cult.  Wrote The Ballard Chronicles (pulp-magazine parody featuring Wrai Ballard) and Redd Boggs – Superfan.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born October 22, 1938 Derek Jacobi, 82. He played a rather nicely nasty Master in “Utopia”, a Tenth Doctor story. He’s currently Metatron on Good Omens. And he was Magisterial Emissary in The Golden Compass. I’ll single out that he’s played Macbeth at Barbican Theatre in London as part of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre ensemble. (CE) 
  • Born October 22, 1939 Suzy McKee Charnas, 81. I’d say The Holdfast Chronicles are her best work to date. “Boobs” won the Best Story Hugo at ConFiction. She’s also won the Otherwise, Nebula, Gaylactic Spectrum, and Lambda Literary Awards. Any of you read her Sorcery Hall series? (CE) 
  • Born October 22, 1943 Jim Baen. Editor of Galaxy and If for three years. He edited the sf line at Ace ad then Tor before starting his own namesake company in 1983. In late 1999, he started Webscriptions, now called Baen Ebooks, which is considered to be the first profitable e-book service. He also was the editor of Destinies and New Destinies which I remember fondly.  He was nominated for Best Editor Hugo five times between 1975 and 1981 but never won. At Nippon 2007, he’d be nominated for Best Editor, Long Form. (Died 2006.) (CE)
  • Born October 22, 1948 – Debbie Macomber, 72.  Over 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide.  First winner of the Quill Award; Romantic Times Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award; RITA Award.  For us, three novels about three angels who work miracles but have a hard time resisting the use of human technology, which sometimes lands them in trouble; they are named – which couldn’t resist – Shirley, Goodness and Mercy.  [JH]
  • Born October 22, 1952 Jeff Goldblum, 68. The Wiki page gushes over him for being in Jurassic Park and Independence Day (as well as their sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Independence Day: Resurgence, but neglects my favorite film with him in it, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, not to mention the  Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake he was in. (CE) 
  • Born October 22, 1954 Graham Joyce. Selecting his best novel is a futile exercise as everything is fantastically good but I’ll single out Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Tooth Fairy as the ones I found the most interesting reads. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born October 22, 1956 Gretchen Roper, 63. Long-time member of fandom, filker and con-runner. She co-founded Dodeka Records with her husband, Bill Roper. She received with her husband the Pegasus Award for Best Original Humorous Song, “My Husband The Filker”, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame. She runs The Secret Empire, a business selling filk-related stuff and other things at cons. (CE)
  • Born October 22, 1958 – Keith Parkinson.  A hundred forty book covers, a hundred eighty interiors. Three artbooks, most recently Kingsgate.  Cards. Video and online games.  Here is the May 85 Amazing.  Here is In the Shadow of the Master (in Dutch; English title After the King; Tolkien).  (Died 2005) [JH] 
  • Born October 22, 1960 – Dafydd ab Hugh, 60.  Eight Star Trek novels, four others; four shorter stories including “The Coon Rolled Down and Ruptured His Larinks, a Squeezed Novel by Mr. Skunk” (novelette; Hugo & Nebula finalist).  Served in the U.S. Navy. [JH]
  • Born October 22, 1992 – Carrie Hope Fletcher, 28.  Four novels for us; career onstage including A Christmas Carol (Menken, Ahrens & Ockert 1994), The Addams Family (Lippa, Brickman & Elice 2009), Cinderella (Lloyd Webber, Zippell & Fennell 2019), Mary Poppins (Sherman, Sherman, Drewe & Fellows, 2004).  Singer, Internet celebrity.  YouTube channel with 650,000 subscribers.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • At Bizarro, Trolls and Gremlins come to an agreement.

(12) HELD FOR RANSOM. Brenton Dickieson found an unexpected connection between some works of C.S. Lewis: “My Paper, “A Cosmic Shift in The Screwtape Letters,” Published in Mythlore” at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

 …It isn’t that Lewis wrote these Screwtapian letters; rather, as he says in the preface published in your copy of The Screwtape Letters:

“I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands.”

What is intriguing about the handwritten preface, is that Lewis makes a link between Screwtape and his Ransom book–Out of the Silent Planet from 1938 and Perelandra, which he was writing at this time. This is the first sentence of the “Ransom Preface,” as I call it:

“Nothing will induce me to reveal how my friend Dr. Ransom got hold of the script which is translated in the following pages.”

It is a pretty exciting discovery and one that I have spent years working on…. 

…. You can purchase Mythlore here, and the free open-access copy of this paper is available here.

(13) VIDEO OF THE MINUTE. In “Honest Trailers: Us” the Screen Junkies take on the 2019 film, which has “enough social commentary to trick snobs into watching B-movie sci-fi horror action.”

(14) POE IN TOWN. In “Edgar Allan Poe And The Rise Of The Modern City” on CrimeReads, College of Charleston English professor Scott Peeples looks at Poe’s story “The man In The Crowd” to discuss Poe’s attitudes towards urban life.

First published in December 1840, Poe’s story “The Man of the Crowd” encapsulates the mystery and fear that attended the rapid development of cities and the influx of “strangers.” Though set in London, where Poe had lived as a child and whose density and growth exceeded those of American cities in 1840, the tale reflects the future shock of mid-nineteenth-century urban experience generally. For the first third of the story, the narrator, recuperating from an unnamed illness, sits alone at the “large bow-window” of a coffee house, watching the parade of pedestrians at the workday’s end. A shrewd taxonomist of urban types, he identifies the professions and social stations of passersby. The first group includes “noblemen, merchants, attorneys, tradesmen, stock-jobbers . . . men of leisure and men actively engaged in affairs of their own.” He proceeds down the social ladder, calling attention to visible clues…

(15) SHARDS OF PLENTY. Gizmodo finds Bennu is ready for its close-up. “Stunning Images Show NASA’s Attempt at Scooping Samples From an Asteroid”.  

…Pictures snapped by the spacecraft’s SamCam imager show the 1-foot-wide (0.3-meter) sampling head absolutely bathed in debris. Though I’m no expert, it would be hard to believe that nothing got scooped up by the collection system, known as Touch-and-Go, or TAG. But images can be deceiving, and the team, led by the University of Arizona, will spend the next week trying to figure out how much debris was collected.

Approximately one second after making touchdown, the probe fired a nitrogen gas bottle, which produced the debris cloud, according to a NASA statement. OSIRIS-REx arrived at a predetermined site called Nightingale and reached the surface during its first attempt….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Bob Marley — Redemption Song” on Vimeo is an animation of the classic Marley song by Octave Marsel and Theo de Gueltzl.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Horton, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

Pixel Scroll 9/3/20 This Is Not The Pixel Scroll You Are Looking For

(1) POWERFUL RECOMMENDATION. Innocent Chizaram Ilo writes a guest feature for Sarah Gailey’s series: “Personal Canons: Lesley Nneka Arimah”. “They are the winner of the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (African Region). …They live in Lagos but dream of vast lives in unimaginable places.”

The Kirkus Review, while reviewing Lesley’s brilliant collection of short stories, described it as one that heralds a new voice with certain staying power. This staying power is something that has continued to resonate within me anytime I read Lesley Nneka Arimah. That she decided to give her characters names like Nneoma, Ogechi, Mama Said, Ogechi, Chidinma, seemingly ordinary names belonging to ordinary people, and fling them into bold and daring futures or reimaginations opened up a world of possibilities for me that speculative fiction can be other things not just…white.

Everything and anything is possible and impossible in the whimsical worlds Lesley Nneka Arimah builds with fiction. This distinctive feature of her work keeps the reader on edge, even while reading her realistic stories, because we are always expecting the weird and wonderful. Lesley Nneka Arimah’s stories are also unapologetically political, from her allusions to Biafra in What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky and War Stories, to reimagining a world where women decide when they want to have children in Who Will Greet You At Home, to interrogating the pressure Igbo tradition places on women to get married in Skinned (which won the 2019 Caine AKO Prize for African Writing).

(2) WHEN DINOSAURS ROAMED THE TOWN. “A new interactive map lets you track where your city or town was located on Earth 750 million years ago”Business Insider has the story. The map is here. You can pick various points in history to compare. For example, 400 million years ago during the Devonian Period my town was underwater and my neighbors included Plesiosaurus and Fresnosaurus.

…Have you ever wondered what the area around your hometown was like during the Cretaceous period, when the Tyrannosaurus rex roamed? How about before then, when Earth had just one supercontinent?

Now you can find out.

An interactive map developed by software engineer Ian Webster lets users track the locations of modern-day landmarks back hundreds of millions of years.

If you type in the name of your hometown or current city, the map can pinpoint its location on the planet in a given era, going back 750 million years (that’s about 150 million years before multicellular life emerged).

New York City, for example, formed part of the Rodinia supercontinent 750 million years ago.

Webster’s map relies on the work of geologist and paleogeographer Christopher Scotese, who created his own chronological map in 1998 that charts how tectonic plates shifted throughout Earth’s history.

(3) LONCON 3 REVISITED. Given that Britain is now bidding for the 2024 Worldcon, SF2 Concatenation’s Mark Bilsborough looks back at the last UK-venued Worldcon in “The 2014 SF Worldcon”.

Glasgow is bidding to host Worldcon in 2024, which would be a welcome British return for the science fiction and fantasy sprawling roadtrip that in recent years has taken in HelsinkiMelbourne and Dublin, as well as Glasgow itself in 2005 and London in 2014.  This year it was meant to be in New Zealand, in Wellington, a great venue for SF folk, but global events kyboshed that one (though it did go ‘virtual’. The world’s first truly ‘world’ con?).  Mostly other years since its inception have been North American affairs (as was last and will be next year’s, and 2022), so a 2024 return to UK shores is most welcome….

(4) ‘TIS THE SEASON FOR CONNIE WILLIS. The November/December Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine will publish a new holiday novella by Connie Willis. The release date for the issue is October 20, 2020. There will also be a signed and limited hardcover edition published by Subterranean Press in November (preorder here.)

About the Book:

Ori’s holidays are an endless series of elaborately awful meals cooked by her one-time stepfather Dave’s latest bride. Attended by a loose assemblage of family, Ori particularly dreads Grandma Elving—grandmother of Dave’s fourth wife—and her rhapsodizing about the Christmas she worked at Woolworth’s in the 1950s. And, of course, she hates being condescended to by beautiful, popular Sloane and her latest handsome pre-med or pre-law boyfriend.

But this Christmas is different. Sloane’s latest catch Lassiter is extremely interested in Grandma Elving’s boringly detailed memories of that seasonal job, seeing in them the hallmarks of a TFBM, or traumatic flashbulb memory. With Ori’s assistance, he begins to use the older woman in an experiment—one she eagerly agrees to. As Ori and Lassiter spend more time together, Ori’s feelings for him grow alongside the elusive mystery of Grandma’s past.

(5) APPRAISING BEOWULF. Filer StephenfromOttawa recommends Ruth Franklin’s “A ‘Beowulf’ for Our Moment in The New Yorker as a long, generally positive discussion of the Headley Beowulf translation.

I’m out of free articles at that site, but you might not be!

(6) THE DOCTOR DOESN’T MAKE HOUSE CALLS, BUT DALEKS DO. Simon Stephenson, author of Set My Heart To Five, tells Whatever readers where he got his Big Idea.

A few years ago, I spent a night in a chain hotel after a long series of international flights.  I arrived after midnight, took a shower and an Ambien, and then discovered that I had forgotten my toothpaste. I called down to reception and ten minutes later, the doorbell on my room rang. I threw on my robe, grabbed a few dollars for a tip, and opened the door to reveal the creature that had perma-stalked my childhood nightmares: a Dalek.

For a moment, my Dalek and I stood in silent contemplation of each other. I had outrun them for decades but now Davros’ mechanical foot soldiers had caught me: alone, tired, drugged, be-robed and with no real weapons to defend myself except a Gideon bible and that thing they leave in hotel rooms that has something to do with shoes….

(7) JAMES BOND. A new trailer for No Time To Die dropped today.

(8) SAUNDERS OBIT. Charles Saunders (1946-2020), author of Imaro and Dossouye and creator of Sword and Soul, died in May of natural causes reported Milton Davis on Facebook. An African-American author and journalist who lived in Canada. Called a pioneer of Black Speculative Fiction, Saunders’ first sff story was published in 1974.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

September 3, 1996  — Burning Zone premiered on UPN. A series where the cast explored the worst kinds of epidemiological outbreaks. Yeah not the best viewing perhaps currently. It ran just one season of nineteen episodes With elements of the supernatural and super science as well. Initially, it was focused on virologist Edward Marcase as played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Dr. Kimberly Shiroma as played by Tamlyn Tomita.  Due to the series’ epic low ratings at that point, they were removed in the middle of the season with Dr. Daniel Cassian as played by Michael Harris became the lead character.  (It didn’t help.) Critical response to the series was overwhelmingly negative with it being compared quite unfavourably to The X-Files. To date, it has not been released to any of the streaming sites. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 3, 1930 – Cherry Wilder.  New Zealander living two decades in Australia, two in Germany, then home.  Ten novels, forty shorter stories; some short stories, poetry, under another name outside our field.  Reviews in Foundation (F 54 a special Wilder issue), InterzoneVector.  Collection, Dealers in Light and Darkness.  One Ditmar.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born September 3, 1934 Les Martin, 86. One of those media tie-in writers that I find fascinating. He’s written the vast majority of the X-Files Young Readers series, plus a trio of novels in the X-Files Young Adult series. He’s also written two Indiana Jones YA novels, and novelizations of Blade Runner and The Shadow. (CE) 
  • Born September 3, 1937 – Paul R. Alexander, 83.  A hundred fifty covers, thirty interiors; three novels (with Laurie Bridges).  Here is the 25th Anniversary Best from F&SF.  Here is The Worlds of Frank Herbert.  Here is The Witches of Karres.  Here is The Best of “Trek” 10.  Here is Crown of Empire.  [JH]
  • Born September 3, 1940 Pauline Collins, 80. She played Queen Victoria in the Tenth Doctor story, “Tooth and Claw”, a most excellent tale, but she first showed up on Who over thirty years earlier as Samantha Briggs in “The Faceless Ones”, a Second Doctor story. She’s appears in Tales of the UnexpectedThe Three Musketeers, Julian Fellowes’ From Time to Time film and the Merlin series.(CE)
  • Born September 3, 1943 Mick Farren. Punk musician who was the singer with the proto-punk band the Deviants. He also wrote Hawkwind lyrics.  His most well-known genre work was the The Renquist Quartet about an immortal vampire. His late Eighties novel The Armageddon Crazy was set in a post-Millennium States dominated by fundamentalists who toss the Constitution away.  (CE) 
  • Born September 3, 1943 Valerie Perrine, 77. She has an uncredited role as Shady Tree’s sidekick in Diamonds Are Forever, her first film appearance. Her first credited film role is as Montana Wildhack in Sluaughterhouse-Five. She’s Eve Teschmacher in Superman and Superman II. She showed up as Tins in “The Three Little Pigs” episode of Faerie Tale Theatre, and was April Flowers in “ Who’s Who: Part 3” of Ghostwriters. (CE)
  • Born September 3, 1950 – Faren Miller, Ph.D., 70.  Her book notes in Locus 1981-2018 earn her this place.  A novel too, The Illusionists.  [JH]
  • Born September 3, 1956 – Fred Gambino, 64.  Three hundred seventy covers, thirty interiors.  Here is Ship of Shadows.  Here is The Man in the High Castle.  Here is N-Space.  Here is Foundation.  Here is the Dec 96 Analog and here is the May 18.  Artbooks Ground ZeroDark Shepherd.  [JH]
  • Born September 3, 1959 Merritt Butrick. He played Kirk’s son, David, in The Wrath of Khan and again in The Search for Spock. Note the very young death. He died of AIDS. Well he died of toxoplasmosis, complicated by AIDS to be precise. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born September 3, 1969 – John Picacio, 51.  A hundred seventy covers, fifty interiors.  Here is Dante’s Equation.  Here is Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.  Here is Mission of Gravity.  Here is the Dec 10 Asimov’s.  Here is When the Devil Drives.  Artbook Cover Story.  Interviewed in ClarkesworldLocusShimmer.  Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at Minicon 41, Boskone 47, Balticon 50, Westercon 68; roused support for bringing fifty folk to the 76th Worldcon (where he was a Guest of Honor) in his Mexicanx Initiative (i.e. including Mexicana, Mexicano).  Three Hugos, seven Chesleys; World Fantasy Award; Solstice.  Has been doing cards for his version of Lotería, e.g. herehere.  [JH]
  • Born September 3, 1974 Clare Kramer, 46. She had the recurring role of Glory, a god from a hell dimension that was the main antagonist of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s been a lot of horror films including The Skulls IIIThe GravedancersThe ThirstRoad to HellRoad to Hell, Big Ass Spider! and Tales of Halloween. (CE)
  • Born September 3, 1980 – Jenny Han, 40.  M.F.A. from the New School.  Three novels for us; eight others, three being NY Times Best Sellers and a fourth winning the Young Adult 2015-2016 Asian / Pacific American Award for Literature.  A short story too is ours, “Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me”.  Website here. [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Does anyone remember this Trek episode? The Far Side.
  • Garfield observes a competition.
  • Off the Mark shows what happens when everybody talks and nobody listens if he conversation includes R2-D2.

(12) BOOK THOUGHTS. At Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer groks “6 Books with Dan Moren”

5. What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising is one of my all time favorites. I can still remember the boxset that my aunt gave me—for years I was terrified of the cover image, with the Rider on the rearing horse outside of Will Stanton’s house. But once I finally got up the courage to start reading, I was transported into this amazingly atmospheric world, scenes and characters of which stick with me to this day. It’s just this master class in telling a young adult fantasy story that, like the best of them, has these dark and sinister elements. It’s one of the few books that I’d love to do a screenplay adaptation of (as long as we can all agree that the execrable 2007 movie never happened).

(13) PROPRIETY OF SELLING POINTS. Adri Joy questions what’s up with the marketing of a forthcoming 2021 book: “Tor.com Publishing, First Become Ashes, and the pretty pastel packaging of abuse” at Nerds of a Feather.

CW: Discussions of rape, rape apologism, abuse, slavery, racism, explicit BDSM. Spoilers for Docile by K.M. Szpara.

…The thing is, though, the desire to celebrate the transgressive blending of rape and happy endings (pleasure and pain!) plays out rather differently in an unmonetized fandom space than it does when backed up by a significant portion of a Big 5 Publishing imprint’s marketing budget and social media reach. The use of tags in fanfiction can be playful, but they are ultimately there to inform readers of the exact content of a piece of media (however imperfectly), and let them make their own choices. When turned into a marketing tool, the incentives for “tagging” completely change to become about what will sell, and that completely changes what is appropriate and what is trustworthy. Likewise, the choice to pair your dark stories with an unexpected pastel aesthetic is one thing when you’re choosing a Tumblr theme or commissioning an artist to draw your fic, but it has an entirely different weight behind it when you’re printing 75,000 hardbacks to go out to major stores and sit on the shelf alongside all the other pastel aesthetic SFF books which are almost entirely not about rape and BDSM. Once you’ve started writing about the traumatic, abusive cock cages in your book in cutesy handwriting font, it’s possible you’ve lost the plot entirely… but even if there is an audience that would be good for, it’s certainly not all 25,000 Twitter followers of Tor.com Publishing! These are not responsible choices; they deliberately obfuscate and misrepresent the book, and in doing so prevent potential readers – particularly those who aren’t clued in on the past pattern via Twitter – from making fully informed choices about their reading. For other books, that might be annoying, especially at hardback price point; for one with this combination of sensitive topics, it’s frankly dangerous….

(14) RADIO ACTIVITY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 yesterday broadcast Science Stories which this week concerned possible alien life in meteorites. A notion that goes back over 100 years.  Apparently, Pasteur had an interest and around that time there was a hoax perpetrated (it is thought to discredit those arguing against Pasteur). Filers can listen to it here: “The meteorite and the hidden hoax”

Also yesterday, BBC Radio 4 broadcast Thinking Allowed which this week included mass surveillance.  While this does sort of relate to an SFnal trope, of particular interest is that the exploration of present-day mass surveillance is through the prism of Orwell’s 1984. Filers can listen to it here: “Surveillance”.

(15) CREDENTIALS AHOY. Atlas Obscura invites you aboard “De Poezenboot (The Cat Boat)”.

De Poezenboot is an animal sanctuary floating on a canal in Amsterdam. It was founded by Henriette van Weelde in 1966 as a home for stray, sick, and abandoned felines, and has since grown into an official charity.

The house boat accommodates up to 50 cats at once, 14 of which are permanent residents. Human visitors are welcome on the vessel as well. Many come to choose a cat for adoption, but tourists are also welcome to drop in and scratch a kitty behind the ears. 

(16) NEW ARRANGEMENT. In “Ghostbusters Theme: Medieval Bardcore Version” on YouTube, L’Orchestra Cinematique has a version of the Ghostbusters theme you can play at a SCA banquet.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: The Boys” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the Amazon Prime series where “Superman is a stone-cold psychopath, Wonder Woman is a jaded alcoholic, The Flash is a jaded junkie who’s lost his edge, and Batman is pretty much the same.”  Also featured:  laser babies!

[Thanks to John Hertz, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, StephenfromOttawa, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Catherine Lundoff, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 6/15/20 Where The File Things Are

(1) FLORIDA FAN. How’s the reopening going in Florida? Take a wild guess. “Florida attempted a small pop culture event last weekend and it went exactly as you would expect. Because Florida”. Tom Croom went there —

… On Sunday, June 15th, a group called Florida Toy Shows Expos decided to go ahead with their planned event called the “Orlando Area Toy Collectors Summer Pop-Up Show” in Apopka, Florida located just northwest of Orlando. This marked Florida’s first “geek event” since mid-March

The event started at 9:00 AM, but I didn’t pull up until around 11:00 AM to see it firsthand. I came armed with a face mask, hand sanitizer, and a healthy dose of common sense. The photo I took outside at the entrance showed about 40% people were wearing masks.

… There was no apparent capacity limit. No one was managing the number of people inside. Just crowds of attendees on top of each other and, as you can see in the photos, only about 20% of them are wearing masks. I did a rough count while walking around and saw that there were over three hundred people in the event’s one and only room…

And to make things perfect, someone was handing out flyers for a forthcoming event featuring the fabulous Vic Mignogna!

(2) ILK GET THEIR DAY IN COURT. Whether they want it or not. “Vox Day’s ‘Replatforming’ Backfires” – Camestros Felapton analyzes the court documents.

Vox Day has managed to have a large number of his supporters legally doxxed in court documents with the help of his even less competent side-kick former comedian Owen Benjamin. A case filed in the Superior Court of California by crowdfunding tech company Patreon, cites seventy-two people whom they are suing due to a ‘lawfare’ campaign instigated by Day and Benjamin. I’m not linking directly to the court documents but the case “PATREON, INC. VS. PAUL MICHAEL AYURE ET AL” (Case Number: CGC20584586) can be found online via the Superior Court of California’s page https://www.sfsuperiorcourt.org/

The case connects with Day’s struggles with crowdfunding (see past coverage from me here and here) but specifically connects to Owen Benjamin (see past coverage from me here and here) who was kicked off Patreon last year according to the court documents…

… Instead, it seems the individuals may end up liable for Patreon’s court costs. According to Day this is Patreon “playing dirty” (warning: link to his blog [Internet Archive link here Instead.])…

(3) UP ABOVE THE WORLD. The New York Times suggests: “Stick a Starry Night Sky on Your Ceiling”. Once upon a time I lived where there were stars on the ceiling. How many lifetimes ago was that?

First, think about what you hope to see.

Some people get overwhelmed by the astronomically gargantuan number of stars they’ve been told are visible from earth. With 170 billion galaxies, spanning 45.7 billion light years, there are roughly a septillion stars in the observable universe (that’s the number one followed by 24 zeros). The Milky Way alone has more than 400 billion stars.

These are numbers none of us can even begin to conceptualize. But don’t be daunted: There are ways to narrow down what you’d like to look at from home to make this experience more accessible.

If you’ve ever been to a planetarium, perhaps you remember seeing a vibrant representation of a night sky from the perspective of where you were sitting in that moment. If the presenter then spun the sky to take you into the past or into the future, you know how exciting it can be to see the sky from the point of view of someone who lived on a different continent in a different time in history.

To that end, NASA has a website where you can plug in your birthday and immediately receive a picture of what the Hubble telescope captured on that day, along with an in-depth description (search “Hubble Birthday”). Another free site, In-The-Sky.org, has a Planetarium section that can give you an image of the constellations as they appeared from any location on any day and time in history. These resources will help you imagine what kind of sky you’d like to recreate indoors.

(4) ODYSSEY Q&A. “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer E.C. Ambrose”.

Author and Odyssey graduate E.C. Ambrose will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She writes knowledge-inspired adventure fiction including The Dark Apostle series about medieval surgery, The Singer’s Legacy fantasy series (as Elaine Isaak), and the Bone Guard international thrillers (as E. Chris Ambrose). 

You’re known for being tough on your characters. What advice do you have for writers to make things harder on their characters and raise the stakes?

I often custom-make conflicts to push the buttons of a particular character. What will make this person really uncomfortable? What, based on their own fears/hopes/background/goal, would be the worst thing to happen to them? Part of it comes down to, “Why is this the right protagonist to confront this conflict?” Specificity is key. I’m also looking for collisions between internal and external conflicts—getting the character into a position where they must choose between two priorities or values, both of which they believe they can’t compromise. To that end, I brainstorm large and small conflicts on several levels: internal, personal, interpersonal, local, regional, societal, national, epic, existential. Then I interweave them through my outlining process.

(5) IT TAKES A VILLAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the June 12 Financial Times, Kristina Foster reviews Dark, a German sf series with its first three seasons on Netflix and set in the fictional town of Winden.

Dark’s art direction, which takes a German autumn and cranks up the dreariness in full caliginous despair, reflects the moral decay that has fallen over Winden.  Like Twin Peaks and Stranger Things, Dark leans heavily on the potential for horror and unease in the small town. Rumour and intrigue bubble over into violence, and there’s a marked disconnect between private and public appearance,  But this self-contained ‘nowhere’ place, where inhabitants dream of leaving but rarely never do and where nothing ever seems to change, is also the perfect setting to which to explore the circularity of time.  In this way Dark balances its outlandish transtemporal plot with more realistic portrayals of human flaws…

…Netflix’s first German-language series has an enormous entertainment value.  With its underground passages, secret horological societies, suspicious priests and menacing forests, it exudes an unmistakeable Gothic gloom, perfect for nights at home with the lights off.

(6) IN THE SPIRIT. Josh Gad’s Reunited Apart summoned the 1984 Ghostbusters crew. SYFY Wire sets the frame: “Ghostbusters Cast And Crew Remember Harold Ramis, Stay Puft Marshallow Man During Virtual Reunion”.

…”I sure miss him [Harold Ramis],” said director Ivan Reitman, also a part of the virtual reunion. “I keep thinking of him as sort of a brother figure. I ended up working with him about five times, and he’s really missed.”

“He was an incredible writing collaborator,” added Aykroyd, who penned the screenplay with Ramis. “He was not a believer in ghosts … He was very well educated in myth and mystique and [he was] such a great writing partner because the references were there in an intelligent way and harnessed for laughter. A brilliant man, a brilliant collaborator. I miss him, too, obviously.”

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1991 — Ian McDonald’s King of Morning, Queen of Day was first published. It would win the Philip K. Dick Award for best original science fiction paperback published in the U.S. in 1992, and it would win the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Award for its French translation in the same year. It had but one physical printing in English in paperback but was printed in French and German hardcopy editions. It’s currently available at all the usual digital suspects. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 15, 1397 – Paolo Uccello.  Painter and mathematician, pioneer in visual perspective; see Vasari’s Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.  Look at Ucello’s work used centuries later on our covers here and here and here and here and here.  (Died 1475; birthdate an educated guess) [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1910 – Hugh Walters.  Two dozen SF novels 1957-1981 written for juveniles i.e. ages about 11-16, most about a UNEXA (United Nations Exploration Agency) under which Earthlings went around planets of the Solar System.  The author troubled to get the science right.  Outside this pen name he was a member of the British Interplanetary Society and the British Astronomical HAssociation, a businessman, a local magistrate.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1910 Harold Lawlor. April 1942 saw “The Eternal Priestess” published in Fantastic Adventures, his first sale. His first story for Weird Tales was “Specter in the Steel,” May 1943. Over the next decade, twenty-nine stories by him would appear in Weird Tales. “Mayaya’s Little Green Men” in Weird Tales, November 1946 is of interest as it’s considered the earliest genre appearance of that phrase. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born June 15, 1930 Victor Lundin. He’s best remembered as appearing in Robinson Crusoe on Mars as Friday, and for having been the first Klingon seen on Star Trek, specifically a Klingon Lt. in “Errand of Mercy”. Remarkably his entire tv career save two appearances was in genre series, to wit Time TunnelGet SmartBatman (three times, twice each  as Octopus and Chief Standing Pat), Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Babylon 5. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born June 15, 1935 – Ellie Frazetta.  Wife, business manager, and in every sense partner of graphic artist Frank Frazetta.  An appreciation of her is here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1940 – Michael Barrier.  Founder of Funnyworld magazine.  Historian of cartoons and animation.  Carl Barks and the Art of the Comic Book.  With Martin Williams, A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics.  Hollywood Cartoons (rev. 2003).  Audio commentaries on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, with interviews and like that.  The Animated Man (Walt Disney).  Funnybooks.  [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1941 Neal Adams, 79. Comic book artist who worked for both DC and Marvel. Among his achievements was the creation with writer Dennis O’Neil of Ra’s al Ghul. I’m a DC fan so I can’t speak for his work on Marvel but he did amazing work on DeadmanBatmanGreen Lantern and Green Arrow. All of this work is now available on the DC Universe app.  It should be noted he was instrumental in the lobbying efforts that resulted in Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster receiving long overdue credit and  financial remuneration from DC. (CE) 
  • Born June 15, 1960 Sabrina Vourvoulias, 60. Thai-born author, an American citizen from birth brought up in Guatemala, but here since her teens. Her novel, Ink, deals with immigrants who are tattooed with biometric implants that are used to keep track of them no matter where they are. I’m assuming that the “Skin in the Game” story which appeared first on Tor.com is set in the future. Fair guess that “The Ways of Walls and Words” which also appeared on Tor.com is also set there. The Readercon 25 panel she was on, “East, West and Everything Between: A Roundtable on Latin@ Speculative Fiction” is available for free on iBooks. (CE)
  • Born June 15, 1962 – Jane Routley.  Six novels, nine shorter stories.  Lived in Denmark, in Germany, now back in Australia. Two Aurealis Awards for fantasy.  Nice review in 21 May 20 Publishers Weekly of Shadow in the Empire of Light, scheduled for release during CoNZealand.  I’d provoke a storm of comment if I said she appears to have misused the word melded in a title, so I’d better not.  [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1963 Mark Morris, 57. English author known for his horror novels, although he has also written several novels based on Doctor Who and Torchwood. Given his horror background, these tend to be darker than many similar novels are, I recommend Forever Autumn and Bay of the Dead if you like a good chill. (CE) 
  • Born June 15, 1966 – Rob Alexander.  Twenty covers, as many interiors.  Here is a cover drawn for Pohl’s Stopping at Slowyear.  Here is a cover for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Here is a frontispiece drawn for Resnick’s Pink Elephants and Hairy Toads.  Here is a cover for Deep Magic (RA interviewed in this issue).  Art book, Welcome to My Worlds.  His Website shows playmats for Magic, the Gathering, and other recent work.  [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1973 Neil Patrick Harris, 47. His first genre role was not Carl Jenkins in Starships Troopers, but rather Billy Johnson in Purple People Eater, an SF comedy best forgotten I suspect. Post-Starship Troopers, I’ve got him voicing Barry Allen / The Flash in Justice League: The New Frontier and Dick Grayson / Nightwing in Batman: Under the Red Hood. He also voiced Peter Parker and her superhero alias in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series. Finally, he’s currently Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events which he also produces. (CE)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Nothing to do with Bradbury. It’s just Bizarro remembering an old toy.

(10) LOVE LETTERS. “I Long to Read More in the Book of You: Moomins Creator Tove Jansson’s Tender and Passionate Letters to the Love of Her Life” by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.

… The tender delirium of their early love and the magmatic core of their lifelong devotion emanate from the pages of Letters from Tove (public library) — the altogether wonderful collection of Jansson’s correspondence with friends, family, and other artists, spanning her meditations on the creative process, her exuberant cherishment of the natural world and of what is best in human beings, her unfaltering love for Tooti. What emerges, above all, is the radiant warmth of her personhood — this person of such uncommon imagination, warmhearted humor, and stubborn buoyancy of spirit, always so thoroughly herself, who as a young woman had declared to her mother: “I’ve got to become free myself if I’m to be free in my painting.”

(11) PAGING STAN ROBINSON. “Mars: Green glow detected on the Red Planet”.

Scientists have identified a green light in the atmosphere of Mars.

A similar glow is sometimes seen by astronauts on the space station when they look to the Earth’s limb.

The glow comes from oxygen atoms when they’re excited by sunlight.

The phenomenon has long been predicted to occur on other planets, but the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) – a joint European-Russian satellite at Mars – is the first to make the observation beyond Earth.

“It’s a nice result,” said Dr Manish Patel from the UK’s Open University.

“You’d never plan a mission to go look for this kind of thing. Today, we have to be very clear about the science we’re going to do before we get to Mars. But having got there, we thought, ‘well, let’s have a look’. And it worked.”

(12) STEEP ORBIT? “‘Space race’ hots up with first Shetland rocket launch”. (A story like this, there must be a pony in there somewhere.)

Scotland’s “space race” has seen the first test rocket being fired from Shetland.

The Shetland islands are one of three proposed locations bidding to launch commercial satellites into space.

Edinburgh-based Skyrora launched its Skylark Nano rocket from the Fethaland peninsula at North Roe over the weekend.

The 6.5ft (2m) rocket successfully reached an altitude of about 20,000ft (6,100m).

(13) GETTING WARM. “Solar Orbiter: Europe’s Sun mission makes first close pass”.

Europe’s Solar Orbiter (SolO) probe makes its first close pass of the Sun on Monday, tracking by at a distance of just over 77 million km.

SolO was launched in February and is on a mission to understand what drives our star’s dynamic behaviour.

The close pass, known as a perihelion, puts the probe between the orbits of Venus and Mercury.

In the coming years, SolO will go nearer still, closing to within 43 million km of the Sun on occasions.

As it stands today, only five other missions have dived deeper into the inner Solar System: Mariner 10, Helios 1 & 2, Messenger, and Parker Solar Probe.

(14) GIVING IT A HEARING. Mogsy gets into a popular entry in the 2019 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off competition in “Audiobook Review: Under Ordshaw by Phil Williams” at BiblioSanctum.

…The story wastes no time plunging readers into the action. In fact, it makes Pax all the more sympathetic because in many ways we can understand the confusion and overload of information she must feel. The details and explanations come at us hard and fast, and the pacing hardly slows which is something I can appreciate when it comes to UF, though it does make for slippery transitions. At the beginning, it’s especially imperative to pay attention to everything and stay on top of things, lest you get left behind and become lost. Despite my best efforts, even I found myself floundering in some places, wondering if the narration had skipped over an important detail or if I might have blanked out momentarily and missed something….

(15) MUG IMPROVEMENT. Maybe CSI was onto something. “New Algorithm Is A Lot Like The “Enhance!” Feature In “CSI”” at Futurism.

Researchers at Duke University have developed an algorithm that can upsample a detailed computer-generated portrait of a human face from a heavily pixelated version. It’s strikingly similar to the much-memed “Enhance!” tool from TV crime dramas like “CSI,” which can seemingly pull information out of thin air.

The researchers’ AI, dubbed PULSE (Self-Supervised Photo Upsampling via Latent Space Exploration of Generative Models), can generate photorealistic images of faces that are 64 times the resolution of the source image. For instance, a heavily pixelated 16×16-pixel image of a face can be converted into a 1024 x 1024 pixel image….

To be clear, the researchers didn’t just turn made-up technology from “CSI” into reality. The tool is only capable of generating new realistic faces, using the pixelated source as a guide — not definitively piece together what the original face actually looked like. Still, the results can be eerily similar to the input image — even if it probably wouldn’t be admissible in a court of law….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/16/20 The Diversity Of Pixels Prove That Scrolls Evolved From Files

(1) BEFORE GENESIS. Kim Huett begins a deep dive into Hugo history in “A Different View of the Early Hugo Awards (Part 1.)” at Doctor Strangemind.

…First of all the Eleventh World Science Fiction Convention committee called them the First Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards and not the Hugo Awards. Officially they continued to be called the Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards for many decades. It wasn’t until 1993 that they were officially renamed the Hugo Awards. Exactly when fans began giving the awards the nickname of Hugo I can’t be entirely sure. However, the earliest mention of the practise I’m aware of appeared in the 1955 Clevention’s Progress Report #4. In an article about the physical aspects of the award appears the following comment:

A great deal of hard work, money and time went into the project of making this “Hugo”, as some people have already dubbed the trophy.

Just who was using the term and how widespread the practise was by this point isn’t made clear in this article. It could be that committee members were aware of the nickname being used elsewhere but I suspect such usage was confined to the committee itself. After all, given that at this point the awards had only been given once and then were seemingly discontinued it seems a bit unlikely that fandom at large had decided to give something they couldn’t be certain would ever be seen again a nickname. Moreover, given that the awards are then continually referred as Hugos in the rest of the article I rather suspect some or all of the committee had not only adopted the term but also wanted to push the idea of calling it that as one way to put their stamp on the awards idea. All speculation of course but it does make for an interesting theory.

(2) BEFORE NUMBERS. And Galactic Journey’s Hugo headline deals with news that’s only a tad more recent — “The 1965 Hugo Ballot Is Out!” They also invite fans to join them for an online discussion on May 23.

… Since the Journey has covered virtually everything on the list, we’ve created a little crib sheet so you can vote in an educated fashion.

Also, we’ll be talking about this ballot on May 23rd at 1PM PDT on a special broadcast of KGJ Channel 9 — so please tune in and join us in the discussion!

(3) AN EPISODE RECAP – SPOILERS? I’M NOT SURE. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In the May 10 episode of Supergirl, Kara Zor-El and her friends were trying to track down bad guys who called themselves Leviathan.  They went to the “United States Congressional Library” which eerily resembles a Canadian public library to talk to a librarian who was a “symbologist”–you know, like the guy in The Da Vinci Code.  The symbologist explained that he tried to search for “leviathan”–but all of searches were blocked!  Scary! 

So they decided to visit “special collections,” which of course was the vault in the basement where The Good Stuff is kept and can only be seen by people with the secret passcode,  But just as our hero punches the buttons, the bad guys start shooting at them.  How these guntoters managed to get past the security guards is not explained, possibly because the “United States Congressional Library” doesn’t have any security guards.

Any resemblance between the “United States Congressional Library” and the Library of Congress is nonexistent.

(4) YOU ARE NUMBER SIX. Den of Geek boasts the cover reveal for the next installment in Martha Wells’ series: “The Murderbot Diaries: Fugitive Telemetry Cover Reveal”.

…While Fugitive Telemetry may be the sixth installment in the series, it is something new for this world: a murder mystery. The novella follows Murderbot as it discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, and sets about assisting station security to determine who the body was and how they were killed. Fugitive Telemetry takes place after the events of novella Exit Strategy and before the events of novel Network Effect, and is slated for an April 2021 release.

(5) WHO SUPPORTS THEM. The Doctor Who Companion points fans to a fundraising video: “Peter Capaldi Reads Story By Frank Cottrell Boyce For National Brain Appeal’s Emergency Care Fund”.

Actor Peter Capaldi, shows his support for The National Brain Appeal’s Emergency Care Fund – set up in response to the Covid-19 crisis. We’re raising money for staff on the frontline at The National Hospital – and those patients who are most in need at this time. He reads from The Runaway Robot by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

(6) SOUND ADVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Katherine A. Powers, who reviews audiobooks in the Washington Post, has a piece about the problems of bad audiobooks. “Don’t let a bad reader ruin your audiobook experience. Here are recordings to savor — and to avoid.”  She writes:

Any devoted audiobook listener can attest:  Spending nine hours (or more) in the company of a terrible reader–a shrieker, mumber, droner, tooth whistler, or overzealous thespian–is an experience that can truly ruin a book.  A narrator’s voice is not merely a delivery system, an element extraneous to the text, but an integral one–fulfilling, enriching, injuring, or sinking a book.”

She explains this is particularly true with books in the public domain.  She notes that Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd comes in a dozen versions. including a superb one by John Lee and readings by Nathaniel Parker and Joe Jameson “are excellent if a little fast.” But “excruciating performers” of hardy’s novel include “a drawling old fogy; a governess on an elocution bender; a sprinter whose words tear along in a blur; and a man who seems to be recording inside a tin can.

This doesn’t have much to do with sf except that she says that Neil Gaiman is a very good reader of his own fiction (I agree).  But I thought she made some good points.

(7) PEOPLE WHO KNEW PKD. “The Penultimate Truth About Philip K. Dick” on YouTube is a 2007 Argentine documentary, directed by Emiliano Larre, that includes with Dick’s ex-wives Kleo Mini, Anne Dick, and Tessa Dick, his stepdaughter Tandie Ford, and authors K.W. Jeter, Ray Nelson, and Tim Powers.

(8) WILLARD OBIT. Comedic star Fred Willard, who appears in the forthcoming show Space Force, died May 15 at the age of 86. He gained fame in a long career that included roles in Best in Show, This Is Spinal Tap, Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family. More details at People.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 16, 1891 Mikhail Bulgakov. Russian writer whose fantasy novel The Master and Margarita, published posthumously, has been called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. The novel also carries the recommendation of no less than Gary Kasparov. If you’ve not read it, a decent translation is available at the usual digital sources for less than a cup of coffee. (Died 1940.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1917 – Juan Rulfo.  Author, photographer.  In Pedro Páramo a man going to his recently deceased mother’s home town finds it is populated by ghosts; translated into 30 languages, sold a million copies in English.  A score of shorter stories; another dozen outside our field.  Here are some photographs and comment.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1918 – Colleen Browning.  Set designer, illustrator, lithographer, painter.  A Realist in the face of Abstract Realism and Abstract Expressionism, she later turned to magic realism blurring the real and imaginary. See here (Union Mixer, 1975), here (Mindscape, 1973), here (Computer Cosmology, 1980s), and here (The Dream, 1996).  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1920 – Patricia Marriott.  Cover artist and illustrator, particularly for Joan Aiken (1924-2004); 21 covers, 18 interiors.  See here and here.  (Died 2002) [JH] 
  • Born May 16, 1925 – Pierre Barbet.  French SF author and (under his own name; PB is a pen name) pharmacist.  Towards a Lost FutureBabel 3805; space opera, heroic fantasy, alternative history.  In The Empire of Baphomet (translated into Czech, Dutch, English, Hungarian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish) an alien tries to manipulate the Knights Templar; in Stellar Crusade the knights go into Space after him; 72 novels, plus shorter stories, essays.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1928 – Burschi Gruder.  Romanian pioneer and prolific illustrator of children’s books, textbooks, comic books; cover artist; reprinted in East Germany, Moldova, Poland, U.S.S.R., Yugoslavia.  See here and here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1937 Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy”. She also appeared in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestVoyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the GiantsFantasy Island and Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1942 – Alf van der Poorten.  Number theorist (180 publications; founded Australian Mathematical Society Gazette; Georges Szekeres Medal, 2002) and active fan.  One of “Sydney’s terrible twins”.  Reviewer for SF Commentary.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1944 Danny Trejo, 76. Trejo is perhaps most known as the character Machete, originally developed by Rodriguez for the Spy Kids films. He’s also been on The X-FilesFrom Dusk till DawnLe JaguarDoppelgangerThe Evil WithinFrom Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood MoneyMuppets Most Wanted and more horror films that I care to list here. Seriously, he’s really done a lot of low-budget horror films. In LA he’s even better known for donuts – i.e., he owns a shop with his name on it. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1953 – Lee MacLeod.  Four dozen covers, plus interiors, among us.  Lee MacLeod SF Art Trading Cards.  BatmanHoward the DuckPocahontas (i.e. Disney’s).  Air Force Art Program.  Here are two covers for The Mote in God’s Eye from 1993 and 2000.  For his fine art e.g. plein air, see here.  
  • Born May 16, 1962 Ulrika O’Brien, 58. A Seattle-area fanzine fan, fanartist, con-running fan, and past TAFF winner. Her list of pubished fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3 is quite amazing — FringeWidening Gyre and Demi-TAFF Americaine (TAFF Newsletter). Her APAzines include Mutatis Mutandis, and APAs include APA-LLASFAPAMyriad and Turbo-APA. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1968 Stephen Mangan, 52. Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot episode which saw a major reset. He played Arthur Conan Doyle in the Houdini & Doyle series which I’ve heard good things about but haven’t seen. He did various voices for the 1999 Watership Down, and appeared in Hamlet as Laertes at the Norwich Theatre Royal. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1969 David Boreanaz, 51. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy? And the perfect episode was I think “Smile Time” when Angel gets turned into a puppet. It even spawned its own rather great toy line. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DISNEY’S NEXT PLANS FOR THE STAGE. The Washington Post’s Peter Marks not only reports the demise of Frozen on Broadway, but that Disney Theatrical Productions president Michael Schumacher announced several musicals in development, including The Princess Bride, Jungle Book, and Hercules. “Citing the pandemic, Disney puts Broadway’s ‘Frozen’ permanently on ice”.

Schumacher also used the letter to detail other projects in the works — notably, a stage musical version of the 1987 cult movie favorite “The Princess Bride,” with a book by Bob Martin and Rick Elice and a score by David Yazbek, and an expanded stage version of the “Hercules” that debuted last summer in Central Park. Book writer Robert Horn, a Tony winner for “Tootsie,” will be added to the songwriting team of Alan Menken and David Zippel.

(12) PRINCEJVSTN’S FINEST. Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist Paul Weimer’s “Hugo Packet 2020” is available from an unlocked post on his Patreon page. (I have the right URL here but can’t get it to open from the Scroll, which is why I am also including Paul’s tweet).

(13) WIGTOWN FLIPS. Hey, I read it right here — “Wigtown book festival makes online switch”.

Scotland’s national book town has decided to take its annual festival online.

The Wigtown event will still run from 25 September to 4 October with the themes of resilience and connection.

Creative director Adrian Turpin said a key aim would be to raise the town’s profile while looking forward to a time when the region could welcome visitors.

He said nobody had wanted the situation but it might help the event to reach new audiences.

A number of link-ups with other book towns around the world will feature as part of the festival.

As well as live online speaker events, the 2020 festival will feature its usual mix of art exhibitions, film events, music and performance.

The Magnusson lecture – in honour of Magnus Magnusson – will also go digital for the first time and be delivered by historian Rosemary Goring.

(14) VASCO II. BBC reports “Facebook to build internet cable ‘circumference of Earth'”.

Facebook is teaming up with telecoms companies to build a 37,000km (23,000-mile) undersea cable to supply faster internet to 16 countries in Africa.

Its length – almost equal to the circumference of the Earth – will make it one of the longest, it said.

It is part of a long-running bid by Facebook to take its social media platform to Africa’s young population.

Ready for use by 2024, it will deliver three times the capacity of all current undersea cables serving Africa.

“When completed, this new route will deliver much-needed internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability across Africa, supplement a rapidly increasing demand for capacity in the Middle East, and support further growth of 4G, 5G, and broadband access for hundreds of millions of people,” said Facebook in a blog.

Africa lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to internet access, with four in 10 people across the continent having access to the web, compared with a global average of six in 10.

(15) NEEDED ONE MORE GHOST. Yahoo! Movies UK quotes the actor from a TV interview: “Bill Murray missed Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis on ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife'”.

Bill Murray really missed working alongside Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis while filming the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

The legendary comedian admitted as much during his recent interview with Ellen DeGeneres, saying that the pair were “greatly missed for so many reasons,” adding, “They were so much a part of the creation of [Ghostbusters] and the fun of it.”

(16) TOASTS OF THE TOWN. At the #OrbitTavern on Instagram, Creative Director Lauren Panepinto interviews an author about their upcoming book Ann Leckie and Laura Lam in one session) —and teaches viewers how to make the perfect cocktail to pair it with! Replays of their live shows are also available on Orbit’s website.

For example, a couple of days ago they celebrated World Cocktail Day with Alix Harrow.

(17) NESFA PRESS SALE. NESFA Press has announced a 20% discount good through June 14, 2020  on all NESFA Press physical books — with some exceptions. This does not include E-Books, ISFiC books (including the Seanan McGuire Velveteen books), and the following limited-edition books: Stan’s Kitchen by Kim Stanley Robinson and A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison (limited, boxed edition).

To take advantage of this discount, go to the NESFA Press online store: http://nesfapress.org/, select the titles you wish to purchase, and during checkout enter “COVID-19” in the coupon text field. The 20% will be automatically deducted from the book price.

(18) LIFESIZED ORRERY. “What It Would Look Like If All The Planets Orbited Between The Earth And The Moon” – this video has been out for awhile but it was news to me – a very exotic view!

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kevin Harkness.]

Pixel Scroll 1/26/20 The Scroll Went Over The Pixel, To See What It Could See

(1) YOU DO KNOW JACK. “John Barrowman on his shock Doctor Who TV return – ‘It’s about time’”RadioTimes interviews the actor about his surprise appearance.

In an appropriately shocking character resurrection, fan-favourite Doctor Who character Captain Jack Harkness has made a surprise return to the BBC sci-fi series, with John Barrowman’s immortal Time Agent popping up in the latest episode to deliver a message to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor.

…Kept secret through a mass of codenames, disguises and carefully-planted lies, Jack’s return is sure to make a splash with fans – just last year, RadioTimes.com readers voted him the character they’d most like to see return to the series – and ahead of the episode’s airing, Barrowman said he was prepared for a big reaction.

(2) VIEW FROM THE BOTTOM RUNG. Saturday Night Live suited up guest host Adam Driver to parody his Star Wars character.

Undercover Boss checks in with one of its more notorious bosses, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), to see if he kept his promise to change his company.

(3) IMAGINARY PAPERS LAUNCHES. Imaginary Papers is a new quarterly (free) newsletter from the Center for Science and the Imagination. Edited by Joey Eschrich, it features analysis and commentary on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and the imagination. The first issue is available here.

…Each issue will feature brief, incisive pieces of writing from a diverse array of contributors, from scholars and journalists to cultural critics, designers, technologists, poets, and more. 

We hope you’ll join us in thinking carefully and whimsically about the tangled relationships between how we envision the future and how we see ourselves and our world today. 

(4) BRADBURY CENTENNIAL EXHIBIT AT BOOK FAIR. The 53rd California International Antiquarian Book Fair, which takes place in Pasadena from February 7-9, will include two special exhibits —

Votes for Women. The Book Fair celebrates the 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage with a special exhibit documenting women’s effort to secure political equality. Materials will be on display from the special collection libraries of The Claremont Colleges, University of Southern California, University of California, Los Angeles, California State University, Dominguez Hills and the Los Angeles Public Library.

Something Wonderful This Way Came: 100 Years of Ray Bradbury. The Book Fair marks the centennial of the beloved science fiction and fantasy writer. This special exhibit features Bradbury works and related cultural treasures from the Polk Library at California State University including the manuscripts for Fahrenheit 451 and the short story “The Fireman,” from which the classic novel originated. 

The Book Fair takes place at the Pasadena Convention Center at 300 East Green Street, Pasadena, CA.  Tickets on Friday, February 7 are $25 for three-day admission.

(5) FIFTIES PAPERBACK COVERS APPRAISED. Last night on PBS’ Antique Roadshow: “Appraisal: Ric Binkley Science Fiction Illustrations”.

Watch Kathleen Guzman’s appraisal of Ric Binkley science fiction illustrations ca. 1950, in Winterthur Museum, Hour 3.

(6) THE COLORS OUT OF SPACE. “NASA’s Spitzer Telescope Revealed Colors Unseeable By The Human Eye. It Retires Next Week”LAist assembled a retirement party photo gallery.

Next week, the last of four NASA space-based observatories will retire. The Spitzer Space Telescope brought the universe into a new light (literally), revealing images of planets, solar systems, stars and more in infrared — renderings that human eyes aren’t able to see otherwise

(7) GEEZERBUSTERS. Yahoo! Entertainment reveals “It’s Official! Bill Murray Returns to His Ghostbusters Role in Upcoming Sequel”.

30 years after last appearing as squad leader Peter Venkman in 1989’s Ghostbusters 2, Bill Murray is set to reprise his beloved role in the upcoming sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The new movie stars Paul Rudd as a science teacher whose students find themselves in the middle of a ghostbusting mystery.

Though Murray, 69, made a cameo in the 2016 all-women Ghostbusters, he will be back as his parapsychologist character in the new movie directed by Jason Reitman, the son of original director Ivan Reitman.

Vanity Fair visited the set — “Exclusive: Hanging With Bill Murray on the Set of Ghostbusters: Afterlife”.

… The production uses lightweight, less detailed packs for stunts and distant shots, but I was saddled with the 30-pound heavy-duty version used for close-ups, which is loaded with batteries and rumble motors to make the blasters shudder and jolt in the hands of the user.

…Later, [Ivan] Reitman said he hopes the film will help fans feel the excitement of suiting up themselves: “I wanted to make a movie about finding a proton pack in an old barn and the thrill of actually putting it on for the first time. I’ve had friends come to the set and hoist on the packs, and it always turns grown-ups into children.”

Murray just stood by nodding and smiling. “You’ll see what it feels like,” he said.

“The first 30 seconds are okay,” I told him.

The actor snorted. “It’s that last 30,” he said, shaking his head. “And the dismount.”

(8) SLURP THE FANTASTIC. BBC Sounds finds the connections between “Fantasy, fiction and food”. Mary Robinette Kowal and others are interviewed.

What do Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Lady and the Tramp have in common? Both use food in subtle ways to immerse us in their stories and help us make sense of fictitious worlds – from jumping chocolate frogs to kissing over spaghetti. The same is true for many novels, where food can be an integral part of building characters, plots, even entire worlds. Graihagh Jackson speaks to three world-acclaimed writers – two authors and one Nollywood script writer and film director – to find out how and why they employ food in their work. How do you create make-believe foods for a science fiction world, yet still imbue them with meanings that real world listeners will understand? When you’re trying to appeal to multiple audiences and cultures, how do you stop your food references getting lost in translation? And can food be used to highlight or send subtle messages about subjects that are traditionally seen as taboo?

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 26, 1995 Screamers premiered. This Canadian horror starred  Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis and Jennifer Rubi. It was  directed by Christian Duguay. The screenplay was written by Dan O’Bannon, with an extensive rewrite by Miguel Tejada-Flores, is based on Philip K. Dick’s “Second Variety” novelette first published in Space Science Fiction magazine, in May 1953. It earned almost unanimously negative reviews from critics and has a 45% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It has since developed a cult following. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 26, 1915 William Hopper. I’m reasonably sure his first genre first was the Thirties The Return of Doctor X. Twenty years later, he’s Dr. George Fenton in Conquest of Space, and just a few years later he’ll be Col. Bob Calder in 20 Million Miles to Earth. Unless we count Myra Breckinridge as genre or genre adjacent, he was Judge Frederic D. Cannon on it, that’s it for him as none as his series acting was genre related. (Died 1970.)
  • Born January 26, 1923 Anne Jeffreys. Her first role in our end of things was as a young woman in the early Forties film Tarzan’s New York Adventure. She’s Jean Le Danse (note the name) around the same time in the comedy Zombies on Broadway (film geeks here — is this the earliest zombie film?). And no, I’ve not forgotten she had the lead role as Marion Kerby in the Topper series. She also had one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Fantasy Island and Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 26, 1927 William Redfield. He was in two SF films of note. He was Ray Cooper in Conquest of Space, a Fifties film, and later on he was Captain Owens in Fantastic Voyage. In addition, Wiki lists him in the cast of the Fifties X Minus One radio anthology series, and Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs site confirms he was in nine of the plays. His series one-offs included Great Ghost Tales (a new one for me), Bewitched, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Tales of Tomorrow. (Died 1976.)
  • Born January 26, 1928 Roger Vadim. Director, Barbarbella. That alone gets a Birthday Honor. But he was one of three directors of Spirits of the Dead, a horror anthology film. (Louis Malle and Federico Fellini were the others.) And not to stop there, he directed another horror film, Blood and Roses (Et mourir de plaisir) and even was involved in The Hitchhiker horror anthology series. And Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman is at least genre adjacent… (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 26, 1918 Philip José Farmer. I know I’ve read at least the first three Riverworld novels (To Your Scattered Bodies GoThe Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design) but I’ll be damned if I recognize the latter ones. Great novels those first three are. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar at all with the World of Tiers or Dayworld series. I’m sure someone here read here them.  I do remember his Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki as being a highly entertaining read, and I see he’s done a number of Tarzan novels as well. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 26, 1929 Jules Feiffer, 91. On the Birthday list as he’s the illustrator of The Phantom Tollbooth. Well, and that he’s also illustrated Eisner’s Spirit which helped get him into the Comic Book Hall of Fame. Let’s not overlook that he wrote The Great Comic Book Heroes in the Sixties which made it the first history of the superheroes of the late Thirties and Forties and their creators. 
  • Born January 26, 1957 Mal Young, 63. Executive Producer of Doctor Who for the Ninth Doctor. A great season and Doctor indeed. As all have been in the New Who. He was the Assistant Producer thirty years ago of a series called Science Fiction hosted by none other than the Fourth Doctor Himself. Anyone watch this? 
  • Born January 26, 1960 Stephen Cox, 60. Pop culture writer who has written a number of books on genre subjects including The Munchkins Remember: The Wizard of Oz and BeyondThe Addams Chronicles: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Addams FamilyDreaming of Jeannie: TV’s Primetime in a Bottle and The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane. I’ll admit to being puzzled by his Cooking in Oz that he did with Elaine Willingham as I don’t remember that much for food in the Oz books…

(11) NANO NANO. The Harvard Gazette interviews a scientist about “Disinfecting your hands with ‘magic’”.

DEMOKRITOU: We have the tools to make these engineered nanomaterials and, in this particular case, we can take water and turn it into an engineered water nanoparticle, which carries its deadly payload, primarily nontoxic, nature-inspired antimicrobials, and kills microorganisms on surfaces and in the air.

It is fairly simple, you need 12 volts DC, and we combine that with electrospray and ionization to turn water into a nanoaerosol, in which these engineered nanostructures are suspended in the air. These water nanoparticles have unique properties because of their small size and also contain reactive oxygen species. These are hydroxyl radicals, peroxides, and are similar to what nature uses in cells to kill pathogens. These nanoparticles, by design, also carry an electric charge, which increases surface energy and reduces evaporation. That means these engineered nanostructures can remain suspended in air for hours. When the charge dissipates, they become water vapor and disappear.

Very recently, we started using these structures as a carrier, and we can now incorporate nature-inspired antimicrobials into their chemical structure. These are not super toxic to humans. For instance, my grandmother in Greece used to disinfect her surfaces with lemon juice — citric acid. Or, in milk — and also found in tears — is another highly potent antimicrobial called lysozyme. Nisin is another nature-inspired antimicrobial that bacteria release when they’re competing with other bacteria. Nature provides us with a ton of nontoxic antimicrobials that, if we can find a way to deliver them in a targeted, precise manner, can do the job. No need to invent new and potentially toxic chemicals. Let’s go to nature’s pharmacy and shop.

(12) BIGFOOTIN’. Forbes’ Ollie Barder reports “A Walking Life-Size Gundam Will Be Unveiled In Japan This October”.

While we knew that this was a project that had been underway for a while, it’s now actually going to be a real thing. In that, this October a walking Gundam will be unveiled in Yokohama, Japan.

The plans to make a Gundam walk were announced back in 2015 and at the time the idea was to have it finished by 2019.

So while this has been delayed a bit, it does look like we will have a Gundam that can walk later this year.

Well, when I say “walk” it looks like this is not some free-roaming Gundam but will be attached to a support mechanism at the waist, to avoid it from falling over.

It doesn’t look like you will be able to pilot it either, as this walking Gundam will be remote controlled.

To be honest, I was expecting limitations like this. Simply because the engineering requirements to make an 18-meter-tall mecha walk are not exactly trivial.

(13) AT WORK. “Astronauts Finish Spacewalk For Final Fix Of International Space Station Device”NPR has details on what real construction work in space is like.

Two astronauts aboard the International Space Station conducted their fourth and final spacewalk Saturday to finish a series of repairs aimed at extending the functioning of a cosmic ray detector attached to the spacecraft.

The six-hour, 16-minute foray outside the space capsule began shortly after 7:00 a.m. ET and ended at 1:20 p.m.

NASA flight engineer Andrew Morgan and the commander of the space station’s Expedition 61, Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency, completed leak checks on their installation of a new cooling system meant to extend the lifespan of the externally attached Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer dark matter and antimatter detector.

They were assisted by two other Expedition 61 crew members, NASA flight engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch, who operated a Canadarm2 robotic arm capable of fine-tuned maneuvers.

The AMS, as the cosmic ray detector is known, was installed about nine years ago on the spacecraft and was designed to function for only three years. It was not meant to be serviced in flight.

But the scientific data collected by the AMS — to date, it has recorded more than 140 billion particles passing through its detectors, 9 million of which have been identified as the electrons or positrons that compose antimatter — have proven so valuable that NASA scientists now aim to keep it operating for the full 11 years of a complete solar cycle in order to better understand the possible impact of solar radiation variation on astronauts traveling to Mars.

(14) CAT SUITS. The Guardian shows how cats can be more divisive than Brexit: “Claws out! Why cats are causing chaos and controversy across Britain”. Tagline: “Whether it is local ‘cat-seducers’, out-and-out thievery or marauding toms, our feline friends are prompting furious rows and rivalries between neighbours.”

…It’s a sad case,” says the Halls’ barrister, Tom Weisselberg QC. “If she’d seen sense, everyone’s time and money would have been saved.” He worked pro bono on the case, because the Halls are friends. There are few legal options for someone wanting to stop their neighbour stealing their cat. Technically, it’s theft, but generally the police won’t get involved. “You have to show that they intend to deprive you permanently of possession,” Weisselberg says. “That’s a high threshold to satisfy.”

When he was a junior barrister, Weisselberg worked on a legal dispute between Kuwait Airways and Iraqi Airways. The Kuwaitis argued, successfully, that the Iraqis had in effect stolen some Kuwaiti planes, because they had painted their own colours on them, thereby converting them. “I said: ‘Look, if the Kuwaitis can say the Iraqis converted their aircraft by putting different colours on the planes, why can’t you say the defendant has converted your cat by changing its collar?’” Weisselberg planned to use this precedent in court but, at the courthouse door, Lesbirel agreed to a number of restrictions on contact with Ozzy.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cliff Ramshaw, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/19 Like A Pixel Lesnerized Upon A Table

(1) YA’S OWN STORY ARC. Slate’s “The Decade in Young Adult Fiction” is not specifically about sff, but a lot of the books they talk about (Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc.) are genre.

As a book publishing phenomenon, young adult literature entered the decade like a lion. At the beginning of the 2010s, a generation that had grown up obsessed with Harry Potter and other middle-grade fantasy series decided it wasn’t that interested in adult literary fiction, with its often lackadaisical plotting and downbeat endings. YA stood ready to supply them with plenty of action, cliffhangers, supernatural beings, mustache-twirling bad guys, and true love. But now, at decade’s end, YA seems to be eating itself alive….

…The impulse that led to these and other worthy enterprises, however, is vulnerable to being twisted to less salutary ends on platforms that foster cliques, vendettas, and self-righteous posturing. In the past two years, online networks of YA authors and readers—mostly female adults—have been convulsed with assorted scandals and controversies that have left many outside observers with the impression that “YA Twitter” is hopelessly “toxic.” Bloggers and Twitter pundits pilloried 2017’s The Black Witch, a debut young-adult fantasy novel by Laurie Forest, for its purported “racism.” That criticism proved unconvincing—even to teen readers, who made the book a success and reviewed it enthusiastically on Amazon—but few of those weighing in on the controversy bothered to point out instead how listlessly predictable The Black Witch is, with the usual high-born heroine confronting an unjust world while embroiled in the usual bad boy/good boy love triangle. It didn’t quite seem worthy of the energy adult readers devoted to fighting over it….

(2) ADD TO YOUR CINEMA TBR STACK. Leonard Maltin weighs in about a flock of books out this month: “New and Notable Film Books – December 2019”. Here are two of his comments:

THE SHOW WON’T GO ON: THE MOST SHOCKING, BIZARRE, AND HISTORIC DEATHS OF PERFORMERS ONSTAGE by Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns (Chicago Review Press)

Abraham and Kearns surely aren’t the only show-biz aficionados who have harbored a keen interest in the stories of entertainers who actually died in front of an audience… but they’re the only ones who have had the gumption to research every urban legend surrounding this topic and separate fact from fiction.

RICK BAKER: METAMORPHOSIS by J.W. Rinzler; foreword by John Landis, preface by Peter Jackson, introduction by Rick Baker. (Cameron & Co.)

This massive two-volume tribute to seven-time Academy Award winner Rick Baker is a definitive study of his life and career in the world of makeup. Lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced in a slipcase edition, its quality and thoroughness justify its hefty price. Every page offers wonders and delights, including young Rick’s first correspondence with his hero, makeup genius Dick Smith, and his earliest experiments.

(3) EARLY RETURNS. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds that “‘The Rise Of Skywalker’ Makes For An Exciting, Exhaustive, Effortful Ending”.

The thing about the act of plate-spinning is: It’s not about the plates. Not really.

…If we happen to notice one plate starting to wobble, after all, the first thing we do is look away from it, to see if the plate-spinner sees it, too.

We want them to succeed. The whole cheesy novelty act is predicated on this. The sheer skill it takes to keep the plates from falling — the eye, the timing, the light touch — that’s what we’re drawn to, really. The work of the thing.

J.J. Abrams is spinning a great many plates in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final chapter in the third and final trilogy of what we are now apparently supposed to call “The Skywalker Saga.” He’s not simply called upon to end the trilogy he began in 2015 with The Force Awakens, but the whole space-operatic, science-fiction-with-generous-helpings-of-fantasy, embrace-your-destiny, Joseph-Campbell, daddy-issues megillah. He has to land a Corellian light freighter that has been loaded down with everything that got kicked off in 1977…

He nails that 42-year-old recipe dutifully — effortfully, it must be said — but the flavoring’s off. The story doesn’t require him to toss in as many ingredients from earlier films in the saga as he does here, but he dumps them all (callbacks, references, echoes, events, characters) into the mix anyway. The result leaves you feeling not so much bloated — the film moves too quickly and is too much fun for that — but certainly overstuffed….

(4) TWO-MINUTE WARNING. And the Baby Yoda backlash follows right behind as Rolling Stone demands: “It’s Almost 2020, Why Hasn’t the Baby Yoda Meme Died?”.

The Mandalorian, as a whole, is an interesting litmus test of just how successful a giant entertainment conglomerate can be when it comes to wringing a piece of previously existing IP for all its worth. One might measure success in Disney+ views/subscriptions or award nominations — but, in 2019, maybe the measure is whether or not you can proffer up a bit of fan service and hope the Internet latches onto it, turns it into a meme and does all your best viral marketing for you, free of charge.

(5) ECONOMICS IN SPACE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Nobel-prize winning economist, science fiction fan and 2009 Worldcon guest Paul Krugman unpacked the macroeconomic themes of The Expanse in his New York Times column on Wednesday. In specific, he highlights how the story of the Martian economy is a parable about the need for public spending during downturns: 

The emergence of high unemployment on Mars after demobilization and the end of terraforming makes it seem as if the real problem wasn’t technology, it was secular stagnation — a situation in which private spending is consistently too weak to employ the economy’s resources, except during unsustainable asset or debt bubbles.

(6) WE CAME, WE SAW, WE KICKED ITS ASS. Close to the occasion of Ghostbusters’ 35th anniversary, YouTuber and video essayist Ryan Hollinger has published a video analyzing the film’s full legacy and its effect on mainstream belief in the paranormal — “The Real Meaning of GHOSTBUSTERS… Apparently.”

(7) A BORROWER AND A LENDER BE. “Here Are The Most Popular NYC Library Books Of 2019, By Borough” presented by The Gothamist.

Number 1 Titles By Genre
(Manhattan, Staten Island & The Bronx, from the New York Public Library)

  • Classics: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Comics and Graphic Novels: Saga by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan
  • Fantasy: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
  • Horror: The Shining by Stephen King
  • Mystery and Detective: The Chef by James Patterson
  • Romance: Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks
  • Science Fiction: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 Alfred Bester. He’s best remembered perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook — a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1939 Michael Moorcock, 81. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well.  Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection and Mother London. 
  • Born December 18, 1941 Jack C. Haldeman II. He’d get Birthday Honors if only for On the Planet of Zombie Vampires, book five of the adventures of Bill the Galactic Hero, co-written with Harry Harrison. He’d also get these honors for chairing Disclave 10 through Disclave 17, and a Worldcon as well, Discon II. He was a prolific short story writer, penning at least seventy-five such tales, but alas none of these, nor his novels, are available in digital form. (Died 2002.) 
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 73. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok, so the quality of the last film wasn’t great…  He’d repeat that feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook (YEA!) which I both love, followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed, starting a string of so-so to piss poor films,  A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, War of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.   The BFG is simply wonderful. 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober, 66. Actor who’s been in myriad genre series and films including V, The Twilight Zone, Alien Nation, the Poltergeist series,the X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, Supernatural, Voyager, Star Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead
  • Born December 18, 1954 J.M. Dillard, 65. Yes I know this is a pen name but I’m interested only in her Trek output tonight. She’s written at least fifteen tie-ins starting with Star Trek: Mindshadow in the mid-Eighties And her last seemingly being Star Trek: The Next Generation: Resistance in the late Oughts. She also wrote one of the many, many non-fiction works that came out on Trek, Star Trek: ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’: A History in Pictures, which was actually largely written by Roddenberry’s assistant on a work-for-hire contract as a another book that didn’t get published, a woman named Susan Sackett. Memory Alpha has the story here.
  • Born December 18, 1954 Ray Liotta, 65. We could just stop at him being Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, don’t you think that’s an exemplary genre cred? Well I will.
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 51. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films! He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing In Dracula 3000, James K. Polk in, oh really Casper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequels, Rumpelstiltskin In Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. That’s a lot of really bad films. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio meets an Alien in a snowman.  

(10) UNRAVELING THE GRINCH’S DNA. CrimeReads investigates “How Dr. Seuss Gave Us One of the Most Complex, Socially Important Heist Stories Ever”. You need to go waaaay back….

…Geisel, though, had a long history of mixed feelings about Christmas. According to biographer Charles D. Cohen, as a student at Dartmouth College in the 1920s and a writer and cartoonist for the campus humor magazine the Jack-O-Lantern, Geisel lampooned the whole affair, specifically citing the greed and materialism he saw in the season in an essay called “Santy Claus be Hanged,” which was mostly about how Christmas mornings are ruined because no one receives the items they truly want. He bemoaned, “Sister wanted silk unmentionables and she gets burlap unpronouncibles. Brother wanted a case of scotch and he gets a case of goldfish.” A few years later, in 1930, he published a humorous essay suggesting that parents should combine Santa Claus, his reindeer, the Bogeyman, the Sand-Man, and the Stork into one home-invasive figure—simplifying the number of flying and/or magical creatures that kids would have to count on entering their homes. And then he drew many cartoons representing classic Christmas hallmarks in weird or comically unpleasant versions.

(11) WHO BLABBED? The Royal Aeronautical Society spills the beans about “The secret history of Santa interceptions”.

For the past 70 plus years, nations around the world have attempted to intercept a mysterious hypersonic, high-flying intruder from the North Pole and learn its aeronautical secrets. Our Lapland aerospace Correspondent CHRIS TINGLE reports on the secret effort to counter these annual airspace intrusions. 

(12) OLD TECH. Some Filers will have read Dava Sobel’s Longitude; the BBC describes a spinoff, “The invention that inspired a New York tradition”.

When the final hours of 2019 arrive, a million celebrants will crowd Times Square in New York. Elsewhere, an estimated billion more will tune in to watch the annual spectacle celebrated across the globe.

…But few will acknowledge the man who really deserves their praise, a deeply religious British Royal Navy officer named Robert Wauchope.

…Wauchope’s goal was to make shipping safer. In the early 19th Century, having the exact time was crucial knowledge for mariners. It was only by keeping a ship’s clock precisely calibrated that sailors could calculate their longitude and accurately travel across oceans.

His ball, first demonstrated in Portsmouth, England, in 1829, was a crude broadcast system, a way to relay time to anyone who could see the signal. Typically, at 12:55, a creaky piece of machinery would raise a large painted orb halfway to the top of a pole or flagstaff; at 12:58, it would proceed to the top; and precisely at 13:00, a worker would release it to drop down the pole.

“It is a clear signal,” said Andrew Jacob, a curator who operates the time ball at the Sydney Observatory in Australia. “It’s easy to see the sudden movement as it begins to drop.”

Before the time ball’s invention, a ship’s master would typically come ashore and physically visit an observatory to check his watch against an official clock. Then he would quite literally bring time back to the ship. Wauchope’s invention let sailors calibrate their shipboard timepiece, called a chronometer, without leaving their boat.

“We’re so used to time being here and available, and that wasn’t always the case,” said Emily Akkermans, who has the enviable title, Curator of Time, at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. The museum and historic site houses the world’s oldest operating time ball, which since 1833 has dropped daily, barring blustery weather, war or mechanical breakdown.

(13) CHEOPS AHOY. The space-pharoahing probe is on the way: “Europe’s Cheops telescope launches to study far-off worlds”.

The European Cheops space telescope has launched to study planets outside our Solar System.

The observatory will follow up the discoveries of previous missions, endeavouring to reveal fresh insights on the nature of distant worlds: What are they made of? How did they form? And how have they changed through time?

The telescope was taken into orbit on a Russian Soyuz rocket that set off from French Guiana at 08:54 GMT.

The ride to 700km lasted 145 minutes.

Cheops (short for CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) is a joint endeavour of 11 member states of the European Space Agency (Esa), with Switzerland in the lead.

What’s significant about this mission?

Some 4,500 planets have been discovered since the late 1990s using a variety of techniques. But there is a feeling now that the science has to move beyond just detection; beyond just counting planets. We need to profile the objects in a more sophisticated way. Do they have atmospheres and how thick are they? What kind of clouds? Do they possess oceans on their surface? Do they have rings and moons? Cheops ought to be able to address such questions just from looking for these tiny dips in light during a transit.

(14) GENTLEMEN, DON’T BE SEATED. BBC reports “Social media awash with scorn for ‘sloping toilet'”.

A toilet designed to slope downwards slightly, making it uncomfortable to sit on for more than a few minutes, has been pooh-poohed on social media.

The toilet design has an upper surface that slopes downwards at a 13-degree angle.

…The BBC spoke to Mr Gill about the toilet, which has been branded “StandardToilet”.

“It came from my personal experience where I stopped off at the motorway to go to the loo and realised there’s a huge queue,” he explained.

“I wondered what people were doing in there, some were coming out with their mobile phones.”

(15) MAKE UP YOUR OWN FACTS. Discover “The Incalculable Joy of Fermi Questions” at Math With Bad Drawings. Numerous examples in the post.

 … Since Fermi questions are so fun and useful, why aren’t they more widely taught? Why isn’t every middle school student doing one of these per week all year long?

I suspect a prosaic reason: they’re hard to grade fairly. Math education is accustomed to cut-and-dry answers. Fermi work is more like an essay, where there are many plausible answers, and reasoning trumps conclusions.

All the more reason to embrace them, I say!

(16) TRACING ANIMATION HISTORY. Alan Baumler recommends Daisy Yan Du’s Animated Encounters: Transnational Movements of Chinese Animation, 1940s–1970s (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2019) in “Princess Iron Fan and the origins of Asian animation”.

… One of the reasons the film is so famous is that Tezuka Osamu the “God of Manga”saw it in Japan as a kid and was profoundly influenced by it. In discussing his version of the Sun Wukong story he said

However, what really opened my eyes , impressed me deeply, and sparked my desire to create today was Princess Iron Fan, the first Chinese animated feature film., which premiered in Japan in 1942. (pg. 58)

… Du gives the background on inspiration for the film (Disney’s Snow White) , but most interestingly, for me at least, deals with how it ended up being shown in Japan and becoming, in some respects, the origin story of Asian animated film. It was the direct inspiration for Momotar?’s Sea Eagles (p.52), Japan’s first almost feature length animated film.

She also deals with what to make of Iron Fan, which was a big issue for the film at the time. It was made by the Wan brothers and a team of 250 artists starting on April 25, 1940. The film opened on Nov 19, 1941, in Shanghai. As you can see below, it was still running on Dec 8, 1941, when Japanese troops marched into the International Settlement and French Concession….

(17) BAD RAP. Who even thinks of stuff like this? “Thanos vs J Robert Oppenheimer” — Epic Rap Battles of History does.

[Thanks to Nina Shepardson, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Alan Baumler, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, JJ, N., John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]